Let’s talk about menopause in the workplace
Around one in five women will experience severe menopausal symptoms that are likely to affect them, and their colleagues, so it’s no surprise that menopause in the workplace has become a hot topic.
According to court records, menopause was mentioned in twice as many tribunal cases in the first six months of 2021 as it was in the entire year of 2018. Employment lawyers predict that menopause will become a major driver for workplace policies.
What can employers do?
The Health and Safety at Work Act (1974) requires employers to ensure the health, safety and welfare of all employees. This could include risk assessments that take into account menopausal women’s specific needs, such as adequate ventilation to avoid overheated working conditions, or the provision of appropriate toilets and access to water.
The Equality Act (2010) makes it illegal to discriminate on the basis of sex, whether it is done directly, indirectly, or through harassment. In the case of menopause, an employer might not consider symptoms related to the menopause as extenuating factors in performance reviews, whereas symptoms related to another condition might be considered for male workers.
Employers must also recognise that this issue affects people who are trans or intersex, as well as those who are gender-assigned as women at birth. Furthermore, relatives or carers of someone going through menopause may also be affected as well. For example, sleep disturbance is a common symptom of menopause.
An open discussion about menopause can help to avoid problems and allows employees to feel comfortable raising issues around this topic. Additionally, it also helps co-workers understand the impact of menopausal symptoms and to take a sensitive approach when talking about it in the workplace.
Menopause and employment tribunals
In 2019, a tribunal decision marked a significant step forward in the recognition of the menopause’s impact on workers. This case involved a woman who suffered significant medical issues, as well as stress, memory loss, and exhaustion. While the tribunal’s decision did not say that going through menopause was a disability, it did say that symptoms could have physiological and physical consequences. These met the Equality Act (2010) definition of disability, with a significant and long-term negative impact on people to carry out day-to-day tasks.
In one of the most recent cases to reach a tribunal (January 2022), sales assistant Leigh Best won an age and sexual harassment case after her male boss made comments about her going through the menopause in front of customers. The panel concluded that the employer had been impolite in his handling of a “highly sensitive” situation, resulting in a humiliating work environment for her.
Specialist employment law advice
If you need specific advice or training on menopausal issues, drafting policies, or assist with further advice on what steps you can take to encourage a supportive environment, then don’t hesitate to get in touch with our specialist employment law team. Call 0117 906 9400 or email email@example.com. Alternatively, please complete our contact form.