The Menopause and the Workplace ­­– Changes on the Horizon?

In our blog The Menopause and the Workplace – An update, we considered the increased focus on the impact of the menopause and perimenopause in the workplace and the House of Commons Women and Equalities Committee’s (WEC) findings in July 2021.

In this blog, we summarise the key recommendations of the WEC report to address issues menopausal women experience in the workplace.

The WEC Report

The report on Menopause and the Workplace notes that there are various legal, economic and social reasons which all demonstrate the need to tackle the issues menopausal women experience in the workplace.

Women are now staying in work for significantly longer and women of menopausal age are the fastest growing group in the workforce. However, due to a lack of support many women will reduce their hours or be forced to quit their jobs.

Employers who fail to support their employees are at risk of potential discrimination claims and damage to their reputation. The report concludes that current legal provisions do not offer protection to menopausal women or suitable redress for those who are discriminated against due to their being (or being perceived as being) a menopausal or perimenopausal woman.

Key Recommendations

  1. The appointment of a Menopause Ambassador who will represent the issues that women experience in the workplace because of the menopause and the wider consequences of this for women, their employers and society. The ambassador will work to identify best practice and guidance for employers to address these issues;
  1. To enact section 14 of the Equality Act 2010, which would allow employees to bring a dual discrimination claim, based on two protected characteristics, such as age and sex;
  1. To introduce ‘the menopause’ as a new protected characteristic, alongside a duty to make reasonable adjustments, with prior government consultation on how this should be achieved;
  1. The proposal for employers to have a legal requirement to introduce menopause policies was rejected, on the basis this would likely not lead to positive change in practice. Instead, the Committee recommended, with the support of the Menopause Ambassador, the government should create menopause policies which reflect best practice for employers to utilise;
  1. A trial ‘menopause leave’ policy to be conducted within a large public sector employer and thereafter to consider its success and potential wider roll out;
  1. That the Employment Bill should be passed before the end of the current parliament, which will introduce the day one right for flexible working requests for all employees; and
  1. For the Health and Safety Executive and Equality and Human Rights Commission to produce guidance for employers/employees regarding the legal implications when tackling menopause in the workplace.

The Government’s response

The government recently issued a response (Menopause and the Workplace: How to enable fulfilling working lives)  to previous reports on the menopause in the workplace which indicate that it is unlikely that all of the recommendations will be accepted.

The report confirms that in line with recommendation 1 as above, Dame Lesley Regan has been appointed as England’s Women’s Health Ambassador and will become a permanent member of the UK Menopause Taskforce. It also indicates Menopause Employment champions will be appointed to represent menopausal women. However, the report states that there are no plans to introduce any changes to the Equality Act,  such as introducing a new protected characteristic or enacting section 14 allowing dual discrimination claims to be raised.

Moving forward

The quantity of research and reports in this area demonstrates that the impact of the menopause in the workplace is no longer an issue which can be ignored. Workers should be aware of their rights and employer’s must accordingly take their responsibilities seriously. If you would like advice on any of the issues discussed, please contact one of our employment law specialists.

Laura Nairn, Trainee Solicitor: / 0141 221 8012

Dawn Robertson, Partner & Accredited Specialist in Employment Law: / 0131 222 3242 / Connect with Dawn on LinkedIn