Why Employers Must Take the Menopause Seriously

Julian cole portrait.

Julian Cole

Senior Solicitor

Phone 01264 353411

Email jcole@bsandi.co.uk

One in ten women who worked during their menopause were forced to leave their job because of the symptoms. That’s according to research by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC).

It’s an uncomfortable statistic, raising the question: would those women have remained in work had they been better supported by their employers? We don’t know the answer to that. But recent publicity around the symptoms of menopause, and the measures employers can take to make things easier for women going through it, should encourage all organisations to question whether they’re doing enough.

The EHRC warns that menopause symptoms could amount to a disability. The key factor in determining this is whether what the woman is experiencing meets the statutory definition: a physical or mental impairment that has a substantial, long-term adverse impact on her ability to carry out normal daily activities. While not every woman’s menopause symptoms will reach that threshold, many will.

So what does this mean for employers? Failing to make reasonable adjustments to a disabled person’s working conditions, or to anything else that puts that person at a disadvantage, could be disability discrimination. Treating the disabled person less favourably because they’re disabled could be disability discrimination. Having a provision, criterion or practice at work that puts a person at a particular disadvantage because of their disability could be disability discrimination. There is a whole host of potential pitfalls that could see an employer having to defend a tribunal claim that has no cap on the amount of compensation that can be awarded.

That is just one aspect that should incentivise employers to really understand their legal responsibilities. Away from the formalities of the legislation, there are business reasons to ensure employees are happy and productive at work. All employers want employees to perform well in their jobs. And they don’t want to incur avoidable recruitment costs; replacing staff (and losing skills and experience) is expensive, on a number of levels.

But perhaps it’s the moral duty to be a good employer that will resonate strongest with some. Doing what you can to make work and the working environment easier and more comfortable for an employee (and sometimes a small change, like adapting a woman’s uniform or factoring more rest breaks into her day, can make all the difference) is part of that. Being open and receptive to hearing about the things an employee is struggling with is a great start.

For advice about anything we’ve touched on here, or another workplace issue, contact our team at info@bsandi.co.uk or call on 01264 353411.  

The EHRC’s new guidance document is here.

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