Women make up nearly half of the UK workforce, and interestingly those over the age of 50 are the fastest-growing demographic. It is estimated that in the UK one in three women are either currently going through, or have reached the menopause. Between 75-80% of menopausal women are in the workforce.
However, many won’t reach their full working potential unless they get the right support from their employer. In April 2022, the Fawcett Society published a report – Menopause and the Workplace – which polled 4,000 women aged 45-55, and concluded that 10% of women had left their job because of symptoms of menopause.
Is there legal protection for those who have been adversely impacted by menopause?
Although menopausal status is not a protected characteristic in itself under equality legislation, being disadvantaged at work may amount to sex, disability, and/or age discrimination.
An analysis of court records has found that 23 cases in 2021 cited the menopause, which is a 44% increase from the 16 cases that cited the menopause in 2020. Of these 23 cases, 16 included claims for disability discrimination, 14 included claims for unfair dismissal, and 10 included claims for sex discrimination.
What can employers do to support staff who are affected by the menopause?
There is still a stigma surrounding menopause, and the majority of women are reluctant to discuss it with their employers. However, with growing awareness of how menopause affects working lives, it is increasingly important for employers to be aware of the potential impact. Employers should be providing their staff with the confidence to come forward if any issues surrounding menopause are adversely impacting them, and should be committed to engaging with their staff openly and sensitively – fostering an inclusive and supportive working environment.
Steps employers could take include:
• Taking a proactive approach and implementing a menopause policy
By having this policy in place all employees will understand what the menopause is, how it affects people differently, and know that there is support and advice available to anyone who needs it. Types of support may include; internal support groups, health insurance, and environmental/work-life balance adjustments.
• Promoting a culture where employees can speak to someone if they are struggling at work with menopausal symptoms
Line managers and HR staff should feel confident and be prepared to talk openly about menopause and the resources available with employees. At the other end, any person going through menopause should feel comfortable approaching their line manager or HR to discuss their symptoms and any possible support that may be required to reduce the challenges menopause may cause at work. Having early and regular conversations with staff to understand their needs can help make sure the right support is in place so they can continue to do their job effectively.
Any information shared during such talks should be handled sensitively, confidentially, and in compliance with your Data Protection Policy.
• Informing and training leaders and managers
Training can give staff more confidence to talk to their line manager about the impact of menopause on their work if they know their line manager is trained to talk and listen sensitively, have knowledge of the menopause and its effects, and know what support and guidance is available.
By taking such steps, not only will employers be contributing toward a positive and inclusive work environment, but it will also increase productivity, reduce absence levels, and retain talent.
What is the future of menopause and the workplace?
The Wellbeing of Women has launched a Menopause Workplace pledge. This enables organisations to commit to being a supportive and understanding place for employees going through menopause.
Over 600 large organisations have signed the pledge, and are leading the way in spreading awareness and taking responsibility to care for people going through the menopause.
Menopause Experts Group is campaigning that the House of Commons Women and Equalities Committee should advocate for a requirement that all employers have a menopause policy or code of conduct.
This article was written by Claire Berry, an Employment Solicitor in our Employment Law team. If you would like further guidance on how to support people going through menopause in your workplace, training for your managers, or assistance with drafting a menopause policy, please contact our HR and Employment Law team using the form below.
We always recommend that you seek advice from a suitably qualified adviser before taking any action. The information in this article only serves as a guide and no responsibility for loss occasioned by any person acting or refraining from action as a result of this material can be accepted by the authors or the firm.
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