Menopause in the Workplace -A New Phenomena?

Women have for years experienced the menopause and women for years have worked! So why is menopause in the workplace such a hot topic at the moment? Only last week we saw the launch of the “Travel Talks Menopause” initiative, which is a great initiative to raise awareness, support and education of women’s health across the sector.

Women working whilst going through the menopause is not in itself a new phenomena. That said, there are now increased rates of employment among women aged 50 and over, meaning that more women than ever before will experience menopause transition during their working life. The working population is getting older and there are more women in the workplace, it’s as simple as that! A 2019 survey conducted by BUPA and the Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development (CIPD) found that three in five menopausal women- usually aged between 45 and 55 – were negatively affected at work and that almost 900,000 women in the U.K. left their jobs over an undefined period of time because of menopausal symptoms. Clearly there is more that can be done to help women go through the menopause transition whilst continuing to work. The House of Commons Women & Equalities Committee has recently lead an enquiry regarding workplace issues and the menopause.

Amongst the points for consideration were:

  • Examination of existing discrimination legislation and workplace practices, to consider whether enough is being done to prevent women from leaving their jobs as a result of menopausal symptoms or suffering other adverse consequences.
  • Draw up recommendations with a view to shaping policies to address gender equality. These include the nature and the extent of discrimination faced by women experiencing the menopause and the impact on wider society, the economic impact of menopause discrimination and how businesses factor in the needs of employees affected, and how practices addressing workplace discrimination relating to menopause can be implemented.
  • Consider whether further legislation is required to enable employers to put in place a workplace menopause policy to protect people going through the menopause while at work.

This inquiry closed on 17 September 2021 and we await the findings and recommendations. In the meantime employers need to be aware of the potential discrimination claims that may arise in consequence of their treatment of a women experiencing menopausal symptoms. Whilst “menopause” in itself is not a protected characteristic (at present) under the Equality Act 2010, a woman treated less favourably because of her menopause symptoms could suffer discrimination on the grounds of Age, Disability and/or Sex, all of which are protected characteristics. In addition, employers have ongoing duties under the Health & Safety at Work act 1974 which obliges employers to, where reasonably practical, ensure everyone’s health, safety and welfare at work. Aside from the legal considerations, managing the effects of the menopause can be beneficial for both the employer and the employee. It is also worth remembering that everyone will experience menopause differently and that the effects can be both physical and mental.

Moving forwards, I expect Menopause Policies to appear as routine as other such policies in Staff Handbooks, but for now we are not quite there yet. However there does appear to be a real change and appetite by some employers to help women transition through the menopause by introducing workplace policies and I would encourage employers in the travel industry to do the same. It will be interesting to see what recommendations are made by the House of Commons Women & Equalities Committee and whether Menopause in itself becomes a protected characteristic under the Equality Act. In the meantime ACAS have produced guidance on menopause in the workplace which you can read here.

If you have any questions or are thinking of introducing a Menopause at Work policy; contact

ami@travlaw.co.uk

or call;

0113 258 0033

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