New Menopause Support Guidance – Be Compliant or Risk Disability Discrimination

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has recently published guidance concerning menopause support in the workplace. This follows the first menopause discrimination claim, which was brought to an employment tribunal in October 2023. Below, we discuss the issues many women face in the workplace and how employers can provide help with menopause.

If you believe your menopause rights have been breached, contract Redmans Solicitors today. We are employment law specialists and could discuss your circumstances before advising on how you could proceed. To contact us now:

Menopause Support in the Workplace is Essential

In October last year, the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) published their findings on menopause in the workplace. They found that 67% of working females aged 40 to 60 with menopausal symptoms felt it negatively impacted their work. With 79% less capable of concentrating and 68% experiencing heightened stress, its effects are evident.

The reasons for these negative impacts can vary, and Henpicked, the menopause at home expert, explains why. They stated how menopausal women could experience physical symptoms like hot flushes, headaches or poor sleep. They added how anxiety, low mood and a lack of confidence could also be experienced. As such, employers must provide the proper menopause support for their employees.

EHRC Menopause Support Guidance

On 22 February 2024, the Equality and Human Rights Commission published guidance for employers concerning menopause support in the UK. They outlined how the Equality Act 2010 protects people from discrimination due to protected characteristics, including disability, sex and age. They added that should menopausal symptoms be of a specific severity, it could be classed as a disability. 

Here, the employer must provide appropriate reasonable adjustments, like monitoring the room temperature to help with hot flushes. Such adjustments could also include offering a quiet space to help women experiencing periods of anxiety. Alternatively, shift patterns could be looked at to assist women who’ve had poor sleep due to their symptoms. Should appropriate adjustments not be made, employers could be liable.

Yet the menopause support guidance doesn’t end there. The Equality and Human Rights Commission explained how policies that disadvantage women with menopause could amount to indirect age, sex or disability discrimination. For example, this could occur if an employer’s policy requires a thick uniform to be worn, exacerbating hot flush symptoms.

Furthermore, if absences for menopause are recorded and treated in the same manner as regular sickness absences, discrimination could arise. The same can be said if a woman is bullied due to her symptoms.

Employer Benefits from Offering Help with Menopause

The Equality and Human Rights Commission outlined the importance of employers remaining compliant with their legal obligations. This is because satisfying the legal requirements would ensure they avoid potentially lengthy and costly menopause discrimination claims. 

However, the benefits of offering adequate menopause support don’t end there. Employers could see increased worker productivity and retention rates of valuable talent by showing a willingness to protect employee well-being. Therefore, employers need to offer women experiencing these symptoms the right help.

In their final notes, the Equality and Human Rights Commission suggest how employers can offer such support. They suggest that employers begin by encouraging open conversations about the challenges female employees face. This is because women experiencing similar symptoms would feel more comfortable discussing their struggles and asking for help.

Additionally, creating a menopause policy could help all company areas understand how they should behave. Employees experiencing symptoms would better know where to seek support, and those in management would understand how to provide it.

What if an Employer Fails to Provide Help with Menopause?

As mentioned, women experiencing menopause have protections against discrimination under the Equality Act 2010. This could include sex, disability and age discrimination. Should any form of discrimination occur in the workplace, the employee may attempt to resolve the matter informally. This could fix the matter swiftly and avoid the stress of more formal procedures.

However, a formal grievance could be raised if this isn’t appropriate or possible. Here, the employer must follow specific guidance when dealing with the problem. If the matter remains unresolved or is dealt with incorrectly, a claim could be made to an employment tribunal. Before pursuing such proceedings, ACAS early conciliation would also need to be undertaken.

In addition, if the menopause symptoms are deemed to amount to a disability, the employer should consider reasonable adjustments. If appropriate reasonable adjustments aren’t made, the employer could again be liable for an employment tribunal claim.

Contact Redmans Solicitors now if you think you aren’t receiving the menopause support you’re entitled to. We are experts in the employment law sector and could assess your case before advising on your possible next steps. Begin your journey with us today by: