Menopause in the Workplace

In the UK, menopause is not explicitly covered under the Equality Act 2010, which prohibits discrimination on the grounds of sex, race, age, disability, and other protected characteristics. Despite non-discrimination laws relating to sex being in place since the 1970’s, and most other protected areas for over 10 years, there is no specific protection in place if women are dismissed or subjected to discrimination as a result of the menopause.

However, employers have a legal duty to provide a safe and healthy work environment that does not put their employees’ health at risk. Menopausal symptoms can impact an individual’s ability to perform their duties, and therefore, employers should take reasonable steps to support them. Employers should also remember that they owe a duty of good faith to all employees to make their working environment a reasonable and fair one.

It would also be the case that any action, or lack of action, that affects women, but clearly not men, because of the menopause, or women over a certain age, compared to younger employees may amount to indirect sex or age discrimination. In certain circumstances, the medical effects of menopause, if serious enough, could amount to a disability under the Equality Act, triggering the duty to make reasonable adjustments.

What can an employer do to help a worker with menopause?

One way that employers can support women going through menopause is by providing flexible working arrangements, such as flexible hours or remote working. This can help women manage their symptoms and reduce stress. Employers should also provide training and education to managers and colleagues to raise awareness of menopause and its impact on the workplace. Women should be able to discuss their symptoms with their managers and colleagues without fear of discrimination or stigmatization.

Recently, there have been some positive developments in the UK regarding menopause workplace rights. In 2019, the Faculty of Occupational Medicine and the British Menopause Society published a guidance document called “Menopause and the Workplace,” which provides recommendations for employers to manage menopause in the workplace. The guidance recognizes that menopause is a health and safety issue and advises employers to implement policies and practices that support women going through menopause.

Will the UK government include menopause in the Equality Act 2010?

In 2020, the Scottish government announced that they would provide free menopause training for all public sector employees. This training aims to raise awareness and improve understanding of menopause, and its impact on women’s health and wellbeing.

There are also ongoing efforts to include menopause in the Equality Act 2010. In 2018, the Women and Equalities Committee launched an inquiry into menopause and its impact on working women. The inquiry recommended that menopause be explicitly included in the Equality Act 2010 and that employers be required to make reasonable adjustments for women going through menopause. However, to date, no legislative action has been taken to implement these recommendations.

Indeed, during 2022, the UK government indicating it was considering adding menopause as a specific protected characteristic under the Equality Act and started a consultation relating to this. This would have made it easier for employees to bring any claims, and place more specific obligations on employers to act. Despite legal recommendations that it should do so, it chose not to classify menopause as a protected characteristic under the Equality Act.

What does the future hold for menopause in the workplace?

In the future, it is likely that menopause will receive more attention in the workplace, and employers will be required to take more proactive measures to support women going through menopause. This may include providing more flexible working arrangements, implementing policies and practices that address menopause-related symptoms, and providing training and education for managers and colleagues. It is also possible with a change of government, that menopause will be explicitly included in the Equality Act 2010, providing women with legal protections against discrimination.

It is clear that menopause workplace rights in the UK are slowly gaining recognition, and there are ongoing efforts to improve them. Employers have a legal duty to provide a safe and healthy work environment, and this includes taking reasonable steps to support women going through menopause. In the future, it is likely that menopause will receive more attention in the workplace, and women will be better protected against discrimination.

How can 365 Employment help you?

If you think you are being discriminated against due to the symptoms of menopause or wish to have a consultation regarding what your business can do to improve the workplace for workers with menopause, simple get in touch with us today and a member of the team will be on hand to help you.

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