Speaking at the Police Federation conference, temporary chief constable Dee Collins said police forces needed to support older female officers and address the issue of the menopause, which she described as “the last taboo”.
Her comments, which were praised by other officials at the conference, came as a report said half of women going through the menopause are too embarrassed to speak to their doctor and feel the change is something they just have to “put up with”.
The menopause, the time in most women’s lives when menstrual periods stop permanently, typically occurs between the age of 45 and 55, but Miss Collins said yesterday that it can happen much younger.
Symptoms of the menopause are varied but include hot flushes, night sweats and lack of sleeping, which can have a debilitating effect on the woman concerned.
Miss Collins, who is chair of the national police menopause action group, said 13 million women in the UK are currently experiencing the menopause and 70 per cent experience debilitating symptoms.
She said: “With an ever-ageing workforce, this is an occupational health issue that is growing in importance.
“Whilst the police service have made significant strides in supporting its workforce I believe the menopause and the significant effect it has upon women’s ability to work effectively is one of the last unmanaged health taboos.
“Without a cohesive approach to awareness, training and development of practice and policy both locally and nationally, many colleagues might be left feeling ‘isolated and vulnerable’ at a time when they most need our support.”
Miss Collins told the conference in Bournemouth that a recent survey revealed that 72 per cent of women experiencing the menopause felt unsupported at work and 50 per cent had not disclosed their symptoms to their line manager.
She said: “Within the workplace common reasons for disciplinary procedures include lack of productivity, absenteeism and even ageism, as women can be reluctant to disclose to male managers the real reason for their absence.
“Without the required training and awareness of the Police Service to be alive to this issue talented and experienced officers and staff will be lost to the organisation who will feel unsupported. That is something I am determined to address.”
Miss Collins has been the temporary chief constable of West Yorkshire Police since June 2014, when her predecessor Mark Gilmore was suspended.