Vets Now recently launched Peppy – a digital health app that connects people to real, human health experts – for all its staff. As well as providing help for women going through menopause, Peppy will also give Vets Now colleagues access to free expert support and guidance for fertility, pregnancy, early parenthood and men’s health. It is the first step in wide-ranging and ambitious plans which will be rolled out this year to help support women in the Vets Now workplace who are going through the menopause.

Laura Black, Head of Health, Safety & Wellbeing at Vets Now

Veterinary Woman talked to Laura Black, Head of Health, Safety and Wellbeing at Vets Now to find out how veterinary employers can provide menopause support to their teams.

Thanks for agreeing to talk to us Laura. Why do you feel offering menopause support to veterinary teams is so important?

88% of Vets Now employees are women or relating as female, and over 28% are of an age where they may be experiencing perimenopause and menopausal symptoms.  To help us retain this wealth of experienced professionals and to support our employees, we felt it important to have in place a menopause strategy, that supports our employee, helps reduce the stigma around menopause and ensures our managers are best placed to support their colleagues.

How did you decide what support would be most effective to offer colleagues at Vets Now?

We wanted to ask our women what they wanted as support, what were the main issues and what did they feel would help them most.

We set up a focus group, where we went out to all employees asking them to put their name forward to join the group. We were inundated with colleagues asking to be involved. This showed us that there was a real desire from our teams for support in managing the menopause at work.

From the initial cohort, we selected 12 employees (based on a representation of all demographics of employees and stages of menopause) and ran a focus group with an external provider, Taylor McKenzie. They set up pre-work and tailored the questions to gain as much information on what issues those employees were facing and what support they felt would be beneficial.

This allowed us to look at short-term and long-term strategies.

What were some of the insights you gained from carrying out the focus groups with clinical and non-clinical staff?

It was obvious that there were real differences on some aspects such as practicalities of managing symptoms depending on how and where you work.  For example, our non-clinical teams can work from home: this came into effect during the pandemic and most preferred this as it allowed them freedom to manage their workload and home environment to suit their specific needs. The clinical team were looking at more practical options of staying cool, feeling able to take cool-down breaks and having practical solutions, such as accessiblecold water and uniforms which help rather than hinder night sweats, especially as the majority of our clinical team work nights and weekends.

However, both clinical and non-clinical employee groups were clear that they wanted knowledge-based professional support and some help to successfully carry out their roles. Support looked different for different people. For some it meant support from their managers to implement appropriate reasonable adjustments to help them at work and the understanding that this could be a difficult time and they needed extra reassurance.   

Are there any issues common to veterinary teams which make dealing with menopause symptoms in the workplace more difficult?

Self-esteem and confidence were commonly seen as an issue, this was often associated with brain fog and feeling unable to perform at the same level, as well as feeling worried about being left behind or found out, especially for those who had progressed within their career.  There was real concern that they were not as good as they once were, which is far from the truth. Support and understanding along with some simple tools can help women remain at top level performance.

Have you got some examples of how women can be supported with both the physical and the psychological symptoms of menopause?

From a physical aspect, support can include having options such as taking time out for cool down breaks when you feel a hot flush or sweat coming on; and additional uniforms so you can change and not feel embarrassed. We are trialling lighter weight, cooler uniforms with a plan to roll these out as an option for our employees. 

Having accessible cold water and time out to splash yourself, or just step outside without having to explain helps to reduce embarrassment and allows our colleagues to manage their symptoms themselves.

Having software options to help you to remember and sort tasks and data has been helpful for our support teams. This enables them to manage workload and have a simple way to track what they have coming up and in progress. 

The main support from a psychological aspect is having somewhere to discuss your symptoms and access to professionals who understand and can advise you on measures you can take to meet your needs.

We have provided all our employees with access to Peppy, and we have set up a Menopause hub on our staff benefits area, which has information and a blog to share experiences.  There are also symptom checkers and an events area so our team can attend professional events to help support their menopause journey.

“We want to foster a greater understanding that this is a life stage where we can be proactive, and our employees have full awareness of what we can and will do to support them.”

What are the next steps Vets Now will be taking to increase menopause support for colleagues?

Our next step is to develop manager training on how they can support their colleagues and put supportive measures in place to help retain our amazing, experienced colleagues.

We are also looking at ways in which we can reduce the stigma surrounding menopause, as for some, speaking about their symptoms can be difficult. We want to ensure our managers are understanding, supportive and engaged, if or when a colleague wishes to discuss how they are feeling. We want to also foster a greater understanding that this is a life stage where we can be proactive, and our employees have full awareness of what we can and will do to support them.

What are your longer term aims from this initiative and how do you hope that the business and its staff will benefit?

We will be looking at the impact our rotas may have on our menopausal women and how we can best manage this to allow us to support our employees, but also still enabling us to provide our out of hours service to the profession and clients.

We would also like to help prepare our younger women for perimenopause in advance.

What would be the most beneficial changes the veterinary profession could make to better support women in the workplace through menopause?

Encouraging our amazing women to remain within the profession, celebrating their experience, skills and knowledge and helping them to adjust. If we put in place these supports, I’m confident we can help avoid losing anyone leaving the profession due to menopause.

What most excites you about your work?

A large part of my role is supporting wellbeing, identifying initiatives and supporting our employees with health and wellbeing challenges. 

Having the opportunity to put in place measures to support, protect and enhance employees’ wellbeing, helps us to retain remarkable colleagues.

I am very fortunate that Vets Now proactively engages in supporting Wellbeing. Seeing the difference, you can make by supporting a colleague and putting in place measures to support their wellbeing makes my role all the more rewarding.  

What career challenges have you learned the most from and do you have any advice you would like to share with other veterinary women?

I have been with Vets Now for almost 20 years and one of the toughest times was during the pandemic, when we were working extremely hard, trying to keep on top of the various government requirements as well as putting measures in place to protect our teams and reduce the potential risks from Covid.  Adaptability and perseverance became a large part of my role. I am fortunate to have an amazing team working with me.  We make time for each other, share and talk through concerns or issues.  

Making time and listening to your colleagues is so important – it allows you to pick up on those unseen changes. Letting others know it’s ok not to be ok is important and I encourage anyone to talk about their feelings and to reach out for support. 

Self-care is just as important as support from others. We all need to take time for self-care: understanding what we each need and making time to focus on our own self-care cannot be underestimated. To look after others, be it colleagues, clients or patients, you need to first look after yourself.

To find out more about what it’s like to work at Vets Now, visit

Laura Black

Laura is an RVN, she has worked within the profession for around 30yrs in various roles. She is Head of Health, Safety & Wellbeing at Vets Now. 

Laura completed the NEBOSH Occupational Health and Safety Certificate and Diploma, and has a keen interest in Occupational Wellbeing, this led her to complete the NEBOSH Occupational Wellbeing Certificate.  Laura is keen to keep her knowledge fresh and she is currently studying CBT. 

Laura has volunteered for several charities over the last 20 years and has an interest in women’s health and wellbeing, supporting mental health awareness, suicide prevention as well as trying to protect colleagues from back injuries.  

When she is not working, she loves walking along the coastal paths with her family and her Flatcoated Retriever Reuben.  She also loves cooking, entertaining friends and gardening. If she is not in the kitchen you will find her in the garden with a glass of wine and secateurs.  

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