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The Government has rejected a call from the Women and Equalities Committee to extend the list of protected characteristics under the Equality Act 2010 to include the menopause. Menopause discrimination is currently likely to fall under one or more of three existing protected characteristics: age, sex, and/or disability discrimination.

The proposals follow research showing that women experiencing at least one problematic menopausal symptom are 43% more likely to have left their jobs by the age of 55 than those experiencing no severe symptoms; while research by Bupa shows that 900,000 women experiencing the menopause have left work.

Additional recommendations made by the Committee included introducing a new duty to make reasonable adjustments for menopausal women (similar to the duty in respect of disabled employees), the development of a model menopause policy to help employers, and to allow dual discrimination claims to be heard by employment tribunals relating to a combination of protected characteristics (for example age and sex, or sex and disability); although these too were all rejected.

The Government has, however, made concessions and accepted some of the Women and Equalities Committee’s recommendations. The changes we can expect to see in the immediate future include:

  1. The introduction of a new ‘Menopause Employment Champion’ who will work with employers on menopause in the workplace issues and report to DWP ministers at regular intervals;
  2. An update to flexible working by making flexible working a day one right, allowing employees to make two flexible working requests within a 12-month period (rather than only one as the current regime permits) and reduce the time employers have to respond to two months (from three months); and
  3. Putting in place “strengthened guidance that will give a set of clear and simple ‘principles’ that employers would be expected to apply, to support disabled people and those with long-term health conditions in the work environment”. The guidance is expected to be published by the Health and Safety Executive.

The outcome of the proposals means that although measures are being rolled out that menopausal women are likely to benefit from, there are no significant changes which will specifically change their employment rights, and therefore the legal landscape has not changed from the current position. Employers will need to continue to deal with requests for support from menopausal women sensitively and ensure that they are not treating them less favourably or unfavourably in any way.

Please note that this information is for general guidance only and should not substitute professional legal advice. If you have specific concerns, we recommend consulting one of our legal experts.


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