National law firm TLT is launching a free menopause diagnosis service for all female staff today to coincide with International Women’s Day.
Helen Hodgkinson, chief people and places officer at TLT, said the firm, where 70% of staff are female, had estimated that 12% of them could be experiencing one or more symptoms of the menopause.
Ms Hodgkinson said the challenge for all businesses was that the issue was still “really misunderstood” and the “narrative about brain fog and hot flushes” obscured the up to 50 different symptoms that women could be experiencing.
She said TLT had launched a menopause toolkit earlier this year to help managers talk to staff, having already provided a toolkit for external businesses.
The free diagnosis service, delivered with BUPA, involves a phone appointment with a medical practitioner, an in-person appointment if required, and a report at the end of the process.
Meanwhile, HR staff were being trained as “menopause champions” so that staff had “more than one route” for support.
Ms Hodgkinson said women going through the menopause could also benefit from TLT’s flexible working strategy, TLT World, which allows them to work at home for five days a week if necessary. There was no need for them to explain to their manager why they wanted to work at home.
“Menopause has been marginalised, but it’s quite a significant issue that women have to overcome or manage.”
Like many other law firms, the majority of partners at TLT are male. Since 2019, when only 21% of TLT partners were women, the firm has committed to a target of 33% by 2025.
The figure hit 30% in March last year and Ms Hodgkinson said she was “absolutely confident that the trajectory remains upwards and pretty fast”.
She said the firm’s approach to flexible working had opened up new talent pipelines, particularly in areas such as Scotland, Northern Ireland and the North-East of England, where the firm had few offices.
It was one of the reasons why 80% of the firm’s recent lateral hires were female and was appreciated by those with childcare responsibilities.
TLT has a ‘ramp up, ramp down’ policy for expectant and returning mothers, enabling them to earn 100% of their pay for a reduced 80% of their workload.
There is also a special leave category for those who experience the premature loss of their baby, recognising the element of bereavement involved rather than treating it simply as a sickness absence.
Ms Hodgkinson said the issue of miscarriages was “a conversation not held between women until you’ve had one”, but a “really significant moment” after which it was important that employees were “ready for work”.
She added that another issue, “not just for TLT, but for the whole legal industry”, was the lack of men coming into firms at the early stages.
She predicted that the firm’s apprenticeship schemes, for graduates and school leavers, might provide a way of improving this, as she had noticed the proportion of men was higher on these schemes than the traditional trainee solicitor route.