Menopause in the Workplace: What are your Rights?

Menopause in the Workplace

Pension age has increased over the past few years and it’s highly possible it will rise again in the future, so people are having to work longer. With that, the overall age of the working population is increasing and approximately half of that population is women. Consequently, employers need to ensure they’re aware of both the legal and non-legal consequences of failing to successfully deal with the related symptoms of the menopause in the workplace.

What are the symptoms of menopause?

Menopause usually occurs between the ages of 45 and 55 and symptoms can vary between individuals and last for up to 10 to 12 years.The majority of menopausal women experience symptoms which have a significant and detrimental impact on their day-to-day life and include:

  • hot flushes
  • difficulty sleeping
  • low mood
  • anxiety
  • problems with memory and concentration

But everyone is different and symptoms can fluctuate and be felt to varying degrees.

Is there a legal requirement to have a menopause policy? 

Employers risk losing talent and skills as a result of women leaving their current position because they don’t feel supported enough. However, there is no legal requirement to have a menopause policy to protect employees experiencing menopause symptoms. Additionally, there is no legal protection for businesses that experience undue impact because an employee’s menopause symptoms are affecting their ability to work.

However, if an employee is treated unfairly because of the menopause, this may be discrimination on the grounds of one or more protected characteristics, such as sex, age and disability and may beprotected under the Equality Act 2010. Employers should also be aware that non-binary employees and trans men may also experience the menopause and, therefore, should not be discriminated against.

Sex discrimination

Sex discrimination may occur where an employer treats a woman’s menopausal symptoms less seriously than it would a male employee’s health condition when considering a performance management process.

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 Some company policies or practices may appear to be neutral, but actually disadvantage those who are suffering from menopausal symptoms, so employers should be aware of indirect discrimination claims.

Age discrimination

As the menopause will affect those within a certain age bracket, employers need to be aware of the possibility of direct or indirect age discrimination. 

Disability discrimination

The Equality Act 2010 defines disability as a physical or mental impairment which has a long-term, of at least 12 months, adverse effect on an individual’s ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities. Although the menopause is not classed as a disability, employment tribunals have accepted that menopausal symptoms should be assessed on a case-by-case basis.

 Employers have a duty to make reasonable adjustments where they are aware of an employee’s disability. This may mean adjustments to the working environment, such as increased ventilation or desk fans, changes to sickness policies or adjustments to flexible working.

Can you get time off work for menopause?

Employees are not allowed specific time off during the menopause, however, it is possible for a menopausal or perimenopausal employee to be considered as having a disability under the Equality Act 2010. Therefore, the employer would be under an obligation to make reasonable adjustments to assist the employee with their job role. For example, adjustments could include allowing the employee to work flexibly or recording sickness absence for menopausal symptoms separately from the employee’s other sickness absence.

What can employers do to support menopause?

Employers can help their employees to cope with the symptoms at work. They can change where an employee works: for example, have them sitting by an open window to cool down. Allow an employee to start and finish at different times, to work from home or to temporarily adjust their hours. Women may also need more breaks during the day, so employers should avoid penalising staff who need to take more frequent toilet breaks.

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Employers should consider creating a menopause in the workplace policy that sets out an employer’s approach to dealing with workplace issues relating to the menopause. The policy should encourage open conversations between managers and staff about the menopause with details of support and adjustments which can be offered to assist employees.

Most importantly, employers should convey to their employees that they will treat them with dignity and respect if an employee comes to them for help.

What to do if you think you have been discriminated against because of menopause

If you think you have been discriminated against due to menopause, get in touch with Didlaw. Didlaw is a niche discrimination law firm specialising in the rights of people with disabilities and long-term health conditions in the workplace. D-I-D- law indicates their special interest in Disability, Illness and Discrimination. They are here to defend you and your position to get you back on track. As a nationwide law firm, they act for employees across the UK in employment & discrimination cases. Contact them to book your free telephone assessment.

 

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