Menopause and how it affects women at work is a growing topic around employment tribunals. In the first 6 months of 2021 alone there have been 10 employment claims referencing the claimant’s menopause compared to just 5 for the full year of 2018.

Smaller businesses especially, who may not have an independent HR team may not realise the challenges that women can go through during the menopause and the impact this has on their performance at work. Research has found that menopausal symptoms are likely to impact on both attendance and performance with one in four women who experience symptoms having considered leaving their job. This would be damaging for businesses, resulting in a loss of experience, skill and knowledge. Due to the rise in state pension age meaning that women are working for longer, there is a growing number of women in the menopausal age group (50-64) in the workplace. Most women in this age group are also at the peak of their career during this time and so it is important for employers to ensure they are doing everything they can to retain these women.

Is disability discrimination a risk?

Some employees experiencing menopause are classed as disabled due to the physical and mental symptoms it can cause and so it is important that the impact of menopause is not overlooked and is taken seriously as the consequences of not supporting a disabled employee can be substantial.

Women experiencing menopausal symptoms are protected under the Equality Act 2010 from discrimination in the work place due to their age, sex or disability. However, many employees feel that this legislation does not adequately protect women during such a difficult time. The case law is inconsistent with some cases for unfair dismissal and/ or disability discrimination relating to menopausal symptoms being successful and some unsuccessful. The Women and Equalities Committee have taken action against this uncertainty and inconsistency and in July 2021 they launched an inquiry into why workplaces are failing women going through the menopause.

What can employers do?

Employers should consider whether existing policies e.g. sickness and performance management need to be amended to refer to menopause and may wish to consider whether a specific menopause policy is required.

Employers should ensure that management staff receive adequate training on how to support employees who are suffering from menopausal symptoms. Recently, there has been a rise in support networks for women going through menopause, employers may wish to inform their employees about such support networks and may even wish to set one up themselves.

Reasonable adjustments should be made by employers for women suffering from menopause, this may include:

– easy access to toilets and washing/changing facilities

– adequate ventilation

– flexible working hours allowing working from home in certain circumstances

– access to cold water

– flexible uniform policy allowing for cool and comfortable clothes

If you are an employer looking for legal advice on your position regarding an employee experiencing menopausal symptoms or an employee or former employee who has experienced discrimination in the workplace, our employment law specialists can help. Get in touch with the team on 0845 287 0939 or contact us by email.