Ground-breaking research by Forth Valley College’s Grace Hepburn has led to the Scottish College sector adopting a new Menopause support and training policy.
Grace, FVC’s Administrator for the Department of Business and Communities and also UNISON Branch Women’s Officer covering all colleges in Scotland, has been championing awareness raising of the symptoms which affect a significant proportion of the working female population.
Through her research, in collaboration with Unison’s Equalities officer, Lesley Todd, based at Ayrshire College, Grace produced a policy and in September 2021 presented her findings through a Zoom meeting to the Central Table of the National Joint Negotiation Committee – consisting of representatives of her own union UNISON, GMB, EIS and Colleges Scotland – who then agreed to roll her policy out across all Scotland’s 26 Colleges.
UNISON’s Menopause policy guidance shows that around eight in ten women will experience noticeable symptoms, and of these, 45% will find their symptoms hard to deal with. Following a survey, more than 90% of respondents said that their menopausal symptoms were having a negative impact on their work.
Grace and her colleagues in the EIS FELA union have been raising awareness of these issues more and more recently and FVC have been offering Menopause Awareness and Support training to staff since 2019.
Grace said: “I’m extremely happy that colleges across Scotland are implementing this policy. We worked hard to ensure it reflects the individual needs of every one who is impacted by menopause.
“Only by raising awareness of the challenges menopause brings – physical, mental and emotional - can we put in place the support structures people need.
“Feedback from staff members has shown us that many previously felt unsupported through an incredibly difficult period in their lives.”
“By ensuring every college is now focused on supporting those who need it most, we can create a more protective and caring working environment which is absolutely what our staff deserve.”
Forth Valley College Principal Professor Ken Thomson, said: “We are very proud of the work Grace has put into this policy and delighted to see that it will be rolled out across colleges throughout Scotland. Very well done to Grace on taking this important issue forward.”