Menopause discrimination: What employers need to know19.10.22
An increase in menopause-centred tribunals and inquiries by government bodies raises new questions for employers.
2022 has been a big year for highlighting menopause discrimination in the workplace. An increase in tribunals, government initiatives, and companies implementing menopause policies has taken menopause out of the dark and into the spotlight. Now more than ever, employers should take into account the needs of employees going through menopause, who are the fastest growing demographic in the workforce.
Tribunals citing menopause discrimination are on the rise, according to recent data from the Menopause Experts Group. In 2017, only five UK employment cases cited menopause – in 2021, it came up in 23 trials. One woman who took her employer to court this year was given a formal warning after being off sick due to severe menopause symptoms. She described having to defend herself in front of three men who did not have an understanding of menopause. This case is just one of many, and it highlights a pervasive misunderstanding both of menopause and its scope under discrimination laws.
Earlier this year, a UK survey of 2,000 women aged 45 to 67 revealed that a quarter of women are unhappy at work due to lack of menopause support, with over 60% stating that their workplace does not have any menopause policy in place. Stats like these have been the focus of an ongoing inquiry by the Women and Equalities Committee, who have made several calls to institute menopause policies beyond the scope of the Equality Act 2010.
An increase in menopause-centred tribunals and inquiries by government bodies raises new questions for employers. As an employer, are you doing enough to support your employees? Are you truly abiding by the Equality Act? Should you implement your own workplace menopause policy, and if so, how?
As recent discrimination cases show, too many employers are unaware of the scope of the Equality Act when it comes to menopause, and risk legal action without specific policies. While menopause is not a specific protected characteristic under the act, age, disability, gender reassignment and sex are – all aspects that are relevant to menopause.
An employer is required under the act to make reasonable adjustments to reduce disadvantages one might face due to a disability. When it comes to menopause, these adjustments could be allowing employees to work from home at times due to disrupted sleep, or recording absences from menopause separately from other absense due to illness.
While certain characteristics of menopause are covered by the Equality Act, many employers do not recognise the full impact it can have on employees and fail to offer adequate support. This is evidenced by the over 90% of people citing that menopausal or perimenopausal symptoms have had a negative impact on their work. Introducing a robust menopause policy would mean educating HR and line managers on awareness of menopause symptoms and how they can affect work, and offering capability, disciplinary, and redundancy training so that employees are not wrongly reprimanded for the negative effects of menopause, like poor concentration or memory loss.
With Syrona’s workplace offering, employees can track menopause symptoms and access menopause specialists who they otherwise might not have access to through the NHS. Specialists can offer support when it comes to hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and alternative treatments. HRT for menopause is still relatively uncommon; in some places in the UK, as few as 10% of those going through menopause take it. There are both medicinal and natural alternatives as well, information that a menopause speciaist could help employees explore on an individual basis. Providing access to specialised care is a small step for employers that can make a huge difference for their workforces, while also keeping them secure within the legal framework.
This article was written for Syrona by Emma Olsson.