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Menopause in the workplace

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) recently issued guidance on menopause in the workplace encouraging employers to carefully consider the recommendations and adapt their policies and procedures to ensure fairness and inclusivity in the workplace.

The guidance has been designed to assist employers with understanding their legal obligations in supporting those in their workplace experiencing symptoms relating to the menopause and perimenopause.

The guidance highlights that research carried out found 67% of women experiencing menopausal symptoms reported that the symptoms negatively impacted them at work and 1 in 10 women have left work due the symptoms. I found this disheartening to read and makes me question whether employers in such situations were even aware of the truth.

It is important to note, (and the guidance mirrors this), that if menopause symptoms have a long term, substantial effect on an employee’s ability to carry normal day-to-day tasks, then this may be considered a disability.

Disability is a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010. The Equality Act 2010 protects workers with protected characteristics from discrimination, harassment, and victimisation.

If a woman experiencing symptoms associated with the menopause is considered as having a disability, then her employer is legally obliged to put in place whatever reasonable adjustments (explored further below) are required to assist her at work unless there is a legitimate reason for not being able to do so. Such women may also be protected from discrimination, harassment and victimisation associated with age and sex.

It is also worth noting that employers have an obligation to carry out a workplace risk assessment for all employees.

Employers are expected to carry out further risk assessments for those employees that are experiencing menopause symptoms to identify and address any risks that may be present in the workplace.

Menopause can affect women both physically and mentally.

The EHRC guidance gives useful examples of types of matters employers should bear in mind and this includes a consideration of the room temperature and ventilation. The guidance recommends that employers should consider providing rest areas or quite rooms so that should the need arise, employees can take some time out. Other examples include:

  • Providing fans or cooling systems to help those experiencing hot flashes;
  • Relaxing uniform requirements or amending dress code policies to allow employees to wear loose/cooler clothing;
  • Allowing flexibility regarding work arrangements to help ease the impact of the symptoms. For example, allowing employees to work from home where possible; changing shift patterns to help with warmer days or where the employee is suffering with sleep.

Whilst these are useful examples of the types of adjustments that can be put in place, we recommend that you deal with each employee individually to ensure they are happy with the recommendations and seek professional advice where possible. No two employee’s needs will be the same and so it is important that the adjustments are specific as possible.

Failure to implement reasonable adjustments could result in a claim being made by the employee for discrimination. Discrimination claims can be costly to defend and settle and if the matter becomes public knowledge, it could significantly impact the organisation’s reputation and business.

The benefit of supporting your staff is that you are much more likely to retain valuable staff and avoid the risk of losing talent and incurring the cost of and utilising internal resources on recruiting replacements.

The EHRC guidance helpfully recommends that employers hold open conversations about the menopause as this is likely to encourage a culture where women feel comfortable speaking out about their experience and coming forward to disclose their symptoms and ask for reasonable adjustments.

A menopause policy setting out the support available and providing guidance to colleagues on the matter is another way of fostering an open culture.

You can view the guidance here:

If you have any questions in relation to this article or would like further advice on how to support staff going through the menopause or require a menopause policy, please feel free to get in touch with a member of our team on 01983 897003.

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The information contained in this blog post is provided for guidance and is a snapshot of the law at the time it is written. It is provided for your information only and should not be used as a substitute for obtaining legal advice that it specific to your particular circumstances.

The guidance should not be relied upon in any decision making process. It is strongly recommended that you seek advice before taking action.

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