Death, taxes and menopause.  They’re the three things that women can’t avoid. So why do we talk so much about the financial effects of the first two, and almost never about the last?

At the Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia (ASFA) – the voice of super – we work to help all Australians have the best retirement they can.

That’s why we welcome the Federal government’s decision that superannuation needs to be paid on paid parental leave. 

In 2021 the median superannuation balance for men aged 60 to 64 was around $212,000 for males but just $159,000 for females, a deficit of around 25%.   

It was always unfair and illogical that parents, mostly women, could be rightfully paid to take time out to care for their children, but somehow that work didn’t count enough to contribute to their retirement.

We applaud the government for taking this important step which will go some way to addressing the financial imbalance that still exists between women and men at the end of their working lives. 

But this is not the only imbalance.  

Research from ASFA, launched this International Women’s Day, has found that one in seven Australian women will pay a superannuation savings penalty as they transition through menopause.

It suggests in Australia every year, due to the often-debilitating symptoms of menopause, around 20,000 women will be forced to switch from full-time to part-time work.

 Around 10,000 will leave the workforce but return later and around 4,000 will retire early.

That’s a significant proportion of the 160,000 women who enter menopause each year and the financial hit is equally significant.

When we crunched the numbers, we found a 51-year-old woman earning the average wage who shifts from full-time to part-time work over four years during menopause will be $25,000 worse off at retirement.

Women who are unable to continue working during menopause and are forced to retire around five years prematurely are potentially foregoing an estimated $60,000 in lost retirement savings. 

Research collated by Menopause Friendly reveals 1 in 4 women considered leaving work during their menopause transition, thanks to the sometimes debilitating physical and mental health impacts. 83% report lost productivity due to symptoms and 67% have related mental health concerns.

You might expect these stats would make menopause a key business continuity issue, yet it remains mostly hidden and rarely discussed at work, with most women admitting to not feeling comfortable speaking with their manager about it.

But there are compelling reasons why it should be spoken about more openly and why every workplace could benefit by knowing how to offer critical support.

Not only can Australia not afford to lose these highly skilled workers, many of whom are working in the caring professions that keep the country going, women can’t afford another hit to their super. 

We don’t really understand the full impact of menopause on women’s working lives.

That’s why as part of the Senate Inquiry into Issues Related to Menopause and Perimenopause, ASFA is calling for a comprehensive survey of Australian women regarding the impacts of menopause transition on work and career, including early retirement.

As the troubling Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) gender pay gap findings laid bare, it is impossible to meet a challenge as important as this one without first determining its size and scope.

Organisations such as Cbus Super, Future Super and Aware Super are already on the front foot offering additional days of paid leave per year for managing symptoms, appointments, and self-care. And insurer AIA has worked with the Australasian Menopause Society to offer better member support.

Other companies are educating their staff through Menopause Friendly workplace training programs.  By being more responsive to gender and diversity they’ll be better placed to attract and retain skilled and talented employees.

Paying superannuation on paid parental leave is an important step to rebalance the nest-egg penalty imposed when women are at one pivotal stage in their lives. Better recognising and dealing with the effects of menopause will help to redress the balance at another pivotal stage.