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Typically affecting women between the age of 45 and 55 (earlier for those who are perimenopausal), the menopause can cause a range of physical and/or psychological symptoms including hot flushes, sleep disruption, headaches, fatigue, depression, anxiety, and poor concentration.

For some, symptoms can last up to 10 years and have a significant impact on their lives both at home and at work.

How can menopause affect the workplace?

Earlier this year, research from the Menopause Experts Group found that there were 23 employment tribunals linked to the menopause in 2021, which was an increase of 44%.

Although there is currently no legislation which specifically provides protection for employees going through the menopause, individuals are likely to be covered under the Equality Act on the grounds of either age, sex and/or disability discrimination. Employees are also further protected by the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.

Employees have successfully brought claims of unfair dismissal and discrimination linked to the menopause.

In one case, an employee was unfairly dismissed and unlawfully discriminated against when an employer failed to obtain an occupational health report to consider how the menopause was impacting their performance.

In another case, an employee provided a confused and inconsistent account of what had happened during the working day following an incident. She was subsequently dismissed for providing a confused and inconsistent account of events during an investigation. The employment tribunal awarded the claimant £14,000 for unfair dismissal and she was reinstated back to her role. The employment tribunal also found that her symptoms amounted to a disability and that the dismissal was because of something arising in consequence of her disability and she was awarded £5,000 for injury to feelings.

On 28 July 2022, the House of Commons Women and Equalities Committee published a report, Menopause and the workplace.

Whilst not supportive of mandatory menopause policies, the report emphasises there is much that employers should do to help employees, noting the risk of discrimination claims and reputational damage. Suggested solutions include practical adjustments, additional flexibility, and fostering a greater respect and understanding of the menopause.

The report called on the Government to appoint a ‘Menopause Ambassador’ to champion good practice, produce model menopause policies, and trial specific menopause leave with a large public sector employer.

It set out that model policies should include as a minimum:

  • how to request reasonable adjustments and other support;
  • advice on flexible working;
  • sick leave for menopause symptoms; and
  • provisions for education, training and building a supportive culture.

As the current law does not specifically protect individuals going through the menopause, the report considers it unsatisfactory that employees must frequently present themselves as suffering from a disability to make an effective claim.

In response, the Government confirmed that it does not intend to make any changes to the Equality Act 2010. However, a Women’s Health Ambassador for England has been appointed and will sit on the newly established UK Menopause Taskforce, which shows an intention to continue to provide support to those impacted by the menopause.

What can employers do to support employees going through the menopause?

Employers should consider the following steps to manage issues relating to the menopause in the workplace:

Awareness: Provide training sessions and awareness raising events within the workplace to ensure that employees understand the symptoms and effects of the menopause.

Menopause policy: Consider implementing a menopause policy to provide a structured overview of reasonable workplace adjustments that employers can make to show that employees are supported.

Menopause contact: Larger employers may consider having a dedicated individual (possibly a female who has been through the menopause herself) as a point of contact to provide employees with someone to confide in if they are not comfortable talking to their manager in the first instance.

Risk assessments: Employers are responsible for the health and safety of all employees in accordance with the Health and Safety Act 1974. Risk assessments must be carried out on a regular basis to ensure that workspaces continue to provide a safe environment in which to work.

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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