The impact of menopause in the workplace

According to data from recent research, in 2018 five UK Employment Tribunals cited the claimant’s menopause. This figure rose to six in 2019 and sixteen in 2020.  Following this, in the first six months of 2021 alone, the claimant’s menopause was cited by ten Employment Tribunals.

Experts say the exponential rise in cases shows that women are feeling increasingly empowered to challenge employers who do not understand the impact that menopause can have, and are failing to offer adequate support.

Until recently, menopause and its impact on women were rarely discussed. New findings reveal that the UK could be losing 14 million workdays a year as a result of menopause-related symptoms. In fact, one in every four women who experience menopausal symptoms considers leaving her job, with the resulting loss of knowledge, experience, and talent.

women need employment policies that support them through menopause

According to the House of Commons Women and Equalities Committee, almost a million women in the UK have left their jobs as a result of menopausal symptoms. With menopause mainly affecting those in their late 40s and early 50s, this leads to women, who would have been eligible for senior management roles, leaving work at the peak of their careers.  This also produces knock-on effects on workplace productivity, the gender pay gap, and the gender pension gap.  It is interesting to note that of the 70% of women in employment in the UK, almost 4.5 million are in this age bracket.

A 2019 survey conducted by BUPA and the Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development (CIPD) found that at executive levels, three in five menopausal women were negatively affected at work.

Chair of the Women and Equalities Committee, Rt Hon Caroline Nokes MP, has been quoted to have said:

“Despite the fact that hundreds of thousands of women in the UK are currently going through menopause – a process that can be both physically and mentally draining – it is ignored in legislation. It is time to uncover and address this huge issue, which has been left near-invisible for far too long.”

Menopause has been successfully argued as grounds for direct discrimination as well as a reason for a woman’s unfair dismissal. Under the Equality Act 2010, menopause discrimination is largely covered under three protected characteristics: age, sex, and disability discrimination.

The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 provides for safe working, which extends to working conditions when experiencing menopausal symptoms. There have been several calls made for further legislation to require employers to put in place a workplace menopause policy, to protect women going through menopause, against discrimination whilst at work.

It is understood that women in some big companies are already setting up their own private, internal menopause support groups. If women decide their issues are not supported by HR, employers could potentially face a real problem. Therefore, it will be interesting to see how effectively the Government Equalities Office would implement a strategic approach to address the impact of menopause in the workplace.

Feel free to contact us if you would like legal advice on how to implement an employment policy that effectively supports women who are experiencing menopausal symptoms.

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