In the post-pandemic corporate landscape, companies are placing increased focus on employee well-being. However, Jo Davis, employment partner, warns that the level of knowledge surrounding menopause and its effect on women’s careers remains limited.

A recent report published by the Menopause All-Party Parliamentary Group recommended that women should be invited for a menopause check-up when they turn 45. The report highlights the difficulties women face when it comes to getting a diagnosis and accessing hormone replacement therapy. It also addresses the disproportionate effect menopause can have on individuals from minority backgrounds.

According to the Office of National Statistics, menopausal women are the fastest growing workforce demographic. It is therefore important for all workforce participants to have an understanding of what menopause is and how women affected by it can feel supported. In particular, employers should lead the way in educating and supporting their staff.

Menopause and discrimination

The government has considered including menopause as a separate protected characteristic for the purpose of bringing a claim of discrimination, but has concluded that employees who are treated less favourably than their colleagues because of menopausal symptoms are already protected in that they can rely on the protected characteristics of sex, age and/or disability.

Discrimination is not always straightforward and can take many forms ranging from office banter to uniformly applying a policy across the whole workforce which affects a menopausal woman more acutely. For disability discrimination in particular, it is important to note that menopause doesn’t come with a standard list of symptoms, but their cumulative effect can nonetheless amount to a disability.

This was illustrated in the case of Rooney v Leicester City Council in which the Employment Appeal Tribunal held that a menopausal employee experiencing a wide range of symptoms including confusion, memory loss, light-headedness, stress, depression, anxiety, palpitations, migraines and hot flushes was disabled for the purposes of the Equality Act 2010. The court stated that Ms Rooney’s symptoms had a substantial adverse effect on her ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.

What can employers do?

Lack of support at work for menopausal women can mean that highly experienced and skilled employees are being pushed out of the workforce. Employers have a duty to create an inclusive work environment and prevent this from happening.

A key step that employers can take to address this is to implement a menopause policy. This can help women know what support is available to them and how to access it. It will also operate as a useful tool for line managers in setting out how to provide assistance and how to effectively address any performance-related issues.

Some examples of the measures that can be incorporated into a menopause policy are allowances for time off work, flexible working and having support mechanisms in place within the company. In addition, having a consultation with the employees affected by its content should be prioritised when creating the policy.

How we can help

B P Collins’ employment team offers expert legal advice to both employers and employees. If you require assistance, please contact us on enquiries@bpcollins.co.uk or call 01753 889995.

If you would like complimentary articles straight to your inbox, then please email enquiries@bpcollins.co.uk with the subject heading: Free articles.


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Jo Davis
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