The Menopause and the Workplace – An update
In recent years, there has been an increase in discussion and awareness of the impact of the menopause in the workplace. On 20 April, Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon appeared on ITV’s Loose Women to discuss her concerns regarding how the menopause may impact her working life. She highlighted that their remains a stigma surrounding the menopause and that this needs to be challenged.
The charity Wellbeing of Women has recently launched the ‘Menopause Pledge Workplace Campaign’. The pledge indicates the employers’ commitment to increase awareness and support available to their staff who are going through the menopause. The pledge has been signed by over 600 companies, including Asos and Royal Mail.
In July 2021, the House of Commons Women and Equalities Committee opened an enquiry into potential discrimination workers experience as a result of the menopause and how this impacts the workplace. The findings highlight that a majority of women will experience menopausal symptoms and that these symptoms have a negative impact on their work. The survey also found that 31% of respondents had been off work due to symptoms they experienced from the menopause. These findings demonstrate the significant impact of the menopause in the workplace and that action is required to tackle this.
The survey asked respondents how employers can better support their staff and identified the following areas:
- Providing adjustments
- Introducing policies
- Ensuring Flexibility
- Cultural changes
- Support networks
This demonstrates that although many staff do not currently feel supported, there are steps employers can take to change this. By introducing these changes, there will be wider benefits for both staff and the business. Introducing these measures can also reduce the risk of potential discrimination claims, where compensation is uncapped.
How could a claim arise?
Although menopause and perimenopause are not defined as protected characteristics under the Equality Act 2010, a claim could be brought if a worker is treated unfavourably as a result of their symptoms under the protected characteristics of age, sex and/or disability.
For example, in a recent case, an employee of the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service was disciplined and dismissed due to her forgetful and confused behaviour which were symptoms of her peri-menopause. Her employer considered that she had lied and brought the court into disrepute when she advised two colleagues in court that they may have drunk water containing her medication. She was dismissed and successfully claimed unfair dismissal and discrimination arising from disability. The employment tribunal held that her dismissal was because of conduct arising from her disability (as her peri-menopausal condition caused her to be forgetful and confused about whether she had taken her medication and put it in the water). Her employer was unable to justify the treatment as being a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim (having an honest and trustworthy member of staff).
What should employers do?
Employers should therefore be aware of the importance of supporting staff and the business will benefit from reducing the risk of potential claims.
Consider introducing a menopause policy which will demonstrate a recognition of the impact the menopause can have on staff, whilst setting out guidance as to how this can be addressed.
If you would like to introduce a menopause policy in your workplace, or to discuss any aspect of this blog, please contact a member of our Specialist Employment Law Team.
Laura Nairn, Trainee Solicitor, firstname.lastname@example.org / 0141 221 8012