Menopause – Do employers have a legal obligation to offer workplace support to employees going through the menopause?
With increased rates of employment amongst women over 50, more women than ever before will experience menopause symptoms during their working lives.
According to a report by the Fawcett Society, about 1 in 10 women aged 45-55 left their jobs in 2022 due to menopause symptoms and lack of workplace support. Analysis of Court records by the Menopause Experts Group shows that the number of tribunal cases citing menopause increased by 44% in 2021.
As workplace issues relating to the menopause are increasing – what is the legal position?
There is no specific legal protection aimed at workers going through the menopause. Although, employers are being encouraged to better support women experiencing the menopause. As of 6 March 2023, the Government appointed England’s first ever Menopause Employment Champion who will work to raise awareness of the issues of menopause and promote businesses supporting staff who are experiencing menopause symptoms in the workplace.
Menopause is not itself a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010 – so going through the menopause does not automatically give a worker workplace protection and there are no plans by the Government to make menopause a protected characteristic.
However, the treatment of a worker with symptoms of the menopause could be discriminatory if it relates to a protected characteristic, including:
- Gender reassignment
For example, the symptoms of menopause can be physical (such as hot flushes, heavy periods and headaches) and psychological (such as memory loss, confusion and depression). If the symptoms have a significant impact on a woman’s day-to-day activities including her ability to perform in the workplace, the woman may be deemed to have a disability in law. This is a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010 and could give her the legal route to bring a discrimination claim against her employer.
Employers need to be aware that the menopause affects women differently and also others who menstruate, such as trans people.
ACAS have published guidance ‘ACAS: Menopause at Work’. This provides guidance for both employers and workers about how best to handle menopause-related issues in the workplace. It highlights the importance of managing the effects of the menopause at work for both employers and workers.
In their guide ACAS advise that employers should make sure that they know how the menopause relates to the law, including the:
- Equality Act 2010, which protects workers against discrimination
- Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, which says an employer must, where reasonably practical, ensure everyone’s health, safety and welfare at work
Joanne Briscoe, Associate at The Wilkes Partnership comments: “With the government encouraging the over 50’s to return to the workplace, employers are going to experience more employees with menopause related symptoms at work. Employers should consider putting a menopause policy in place to support these workers, this could help to recruit and retain staff and also minimise the risk of discrimination claims.”
If you are a worker or employer with a query relating to the menopause please contact Joanne Briscoe, Associate at The Wilkes Partnership on 0121 710 55826 or via email at [email protected]. You can also contact any other member of the Employment Team on 0121 233 4333 or email us at [email protected].