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In 2021, there were 23 employment tribunal cases citing the menopause – up from 16 cases in the previous year. Of those cases, 16 included claims for disability discrimination; 14 included claims for unfair dismissal and 10 included claims for sex discrimination.

There is a developing line of case law around the protection that those suffering with menopausal symptoms might be afforded under the current provisions of the Equality Act 2010.

  • In Merchant v BT plc, an employer’s failure to take into account the effects of the menopause during a performance management process was found to be direct sex discrimination.
  • In Davies v Scottish Courts & Tribunals Service, all parties agreed that the severe symptoms of the menopause on the claimant (in this case: heavy bleeding, feeling fuzzy and emotional and being severely anaemic, which affected her concentration levels) amounted to a disability for the purposes of a disability discrimination claim.
  • In A v Bonmarche Ltd, an employee was found to have been subjected to harassment on the grounds of sex and age, after her requests to discuss issues around the menopause and to be provided with support to help overcome the symptoms of the condition went ignored.

Even so, Parliament is currently considering whether to extend the protections of the Equality Act 2010 by including the menopause as a specific protected characteristic with the outcome of the Women and Equalities Committee inquiry due within the next year. In fact, the Speaker of the House of Commons, Sir Lindsay Hoyle, has recently signed a pledge vowing to make the House of Commons a “menopause friendly” workplace.

This stark increase is perhaps unsurprising given recent high profile figures bringing the menopause to the forefront. Indeed, some recent surveys have found that 99% of people suffering with menopausal symptoms felt that this had led to a negative impact on their careers, with over a third of those surveyed saying the impact was significant and 12% saying they had to resign as a result of suffering with menopausal symptoms.

All of this serves to highlight how important it is for employers to consider the effects of the menopause on their workforce, particularly as by the end of 2022 it is estimated that 1 in 6 workers will fall into the age bracket (40 – 55) most likely to be affected by the menopause. Employers should take practical and proactive steps to address the effects of the menopause including:

  • carrying out relevant risk assessments,
  • considering whether any adjustments to the workplace or working practices are required, and
  • establishing an open environment in the workplace where colleagues feel able to discuss issues and raise concerns with managers about the impact of the menopause.
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