How a Prospect rep successfully campaigned for a workplace menopause policy

A health and safety rep at United Utilities has shown how the power of the union can be harnessed for the benefit of employees and the company.

At the start of 2019, Prospect health and safety rep Louise Adams set about drafting a menopause policy to submit to her employer, United Utilities.

“We wanted to attract more women into traditionally male-dominated roles,” said Louise.

“We thought getting more female-friendly policies in place was the first step. We chose the menopause policy to start with because it’s something which happens to all women and we wanted to support them.”

Forcing meaningful policy change

The company decided to release the policy as a guidance note only. But Louise and the other reps from the Joint Trade Union Forum weren’t taking no for an answer.

The reps made a strong case to United Utilities about how it would help the company, highlighting the mental health benefits of such a policy and how it fulfilled an important part of health and safety in the workplace.

“We said if you’re serious about this then it needs to be a policy. We had so much positive feedback from members constantly asking when it was going to be released, the company began to think ‘actually this is a good thing’ and it was ratified late last year,” added Louise.

Louise has every right to feel cheerful about such an important win. Since the policy has been in place, the tangible benefit to members is already clear, particularly as part of sickness reviews.

“One of our members avoided a written warning because her manager used the policy and recognised that she was suffering with menopausal symptoms.”

Keeping it positive

Louise believes highlighting the benefits of any proposal is essential for other reps trying to change employers’ policies: “Keep it positive, try and work with the company instead of against them and make it simple.

“We did a lot of the work, we actually wrote the policy for them with help from draft policies in other unions and that really worked for us,” she said.

For Louise and the other reps at United Utilities, the menopause policy is just the beginning.

“We don’t want to stop here. We’re looking at flexible working next and are hoping to get a period policy in place with free sanitary wear in the toilets across all our sites – especially the remote ones, where a lack of provision for women often puts them off applying for operational roles.”

Being a Prospect rep has given Louise the confidence “to challenge things that I think aren’t right or suggest ways we can improve things.”

Make positive change in your workplace

Louise’s story is another example of how being in a union can make life at work better. Want to change something in your workplace? Join us today to get your voice heard.
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