Menopause and the Workplace
It has been reported by new CIPD research that 59% of women who experience symptoms of menopause say it has a negative and sometimes detrimental impact on their work productivity and performance. Whilst a proportion of women will not experience side effects from menopause, there remains a large pool of women who experience symptoms that can last 4-8 years. This is a global issue. It’s time to break the ‘taboo’ on this subject and discuss it seriously. Employers need to raise awareness and support women in their workforce experiencing menopausal symptoms. BUPA research suggests that over 1 million women in the U.K. have been driven to leave work as a result of menopause.
Rising awareness of this issue in recent years has highlighted the severity of the problem. This has driven the UK Government to take action to protect any women affected. The Minister of Employment has secured a seat on the UK Menopause Taskforce, which strives to identify areas for improvement in the workplace. The Government insists that menopause is to be regarded sympathetically as a top priority and approached with great care.
Menopause is not a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010 (EA 2010). However, age, sex, and disability are all protected characteristics under the EA 2010. These protected characteristics do at least provide employees with a protective blanket covering unfair treatment resulting from menopausal symptoms. Recent cases establish that menopause can fall under the scope of this Act. All of these specified characteristics have been successfully used to challenge unjustified and unfair treatment against employees experiencing menopausal symptoms.
The Women and Equalities Committee have recently released their First Report of session 2022-2023. The report suggests that the Government introduce a new Menopause Ambassador that will make a positive difference by creating new model policies for dealing with menopause in the workplace.
The report concludes that menopause is to be regarded and recognised as a protected characteristic and that Section 14 of the Equality Act 2010 is to be enacted as soon as possible as the present law fails to protect menopausal women.
The final recommendation from the report is that the Government must release a consultation by the end of 2022 which implements strategies on how to introduce menopause as a protected characteristic.
ACAS has recently published new guidelines for employers on how to manage the impact of menopause at work.
It is crucial that as an employee you know your rights and protections if the symptoms you are experiencing from menopause is negatively affecting your productivity and performance at work, or as an employer how to deal with issues that this can cause, and how best to deal with these.
If these issues affect you as an employer or an employee, please don’t hesitate to call us for specialist and expert professional advice.