Menopause; Guidance for employers
The menopause: despite it affecting half of our population at some point in their lives it is rarely talked about, especially in the work place. However, for 1 in 4 women the effects of the menopause can be debilitating at times. As an employer, you have various duties including making adjustments for those with a disability and adhering to health and safety legislation.
Given the issues faced by women during the menopause, it is important for employers to understand the potential effects of the menopause whilst at work. In this article we offer advice and guidance to help you deal with staff who are suffering as a result of the menopause.
The menopause affects women in different ways from mild effects to severe. Symptoms can include:
• feeling tired and lacking energy
• hot flushes and night sweats
• difficultly sleeping
• feeling anxious and panic attacks
• struggling to concentrate or focus
• headaches including migraines
• joint stiffness and aches
• recurrent UTIs
It is unlawful to discriminate against someone because of their age and sex. Given the menopause only affects women of a certain age, they would be protected under equality laws. For example in a case against the retailer Bonmarche Limited, a manager began a campaign of bullying against a women going through the menopause, calling her a dinosaur and ridiculing her. This was deemed discrimination on the grounds of sex and age and the women was awarded around £28,000.
The menopause may also be considered a disability, if it has or is likely to last more than 12 months and have a substantial adverse effects on the woman’s day to day activities, such as sleeping and concentration. If the menopause is deemed a disability then the employer has a duty to make reasonable adjustments. These could include;
• part time working or an adjustment to hours of work;
• allow more comfort breaks
• amending duties/responsivities temporarily
Employers should remember to consult with the employee before implementing any changes to the role.
Health and Safety at Work
Employers also have an obligation to undertake risk assessments to ensure the work place is safe for staff. This includes identifying groups of workers who might be particularly at risk, which could include older workers. This obligation would therefore extend to workers who are menopausal.
As can be seen from the case above, if employers do not comply with the law it can be costly. These are our top tips to ensure your workplace is menopause friendly environment:
- Provide training to managers and key staff. Normalise the topic and remove the “embarrassment factor” by engaging in conversations with staff;
- Have a clear policy in place as to what assistance will be given to staff members suffering from adverse menopausal symptoms;
- Ensure you have an open door policy so staff can talk to you confidentiality about their needs;
- Make adjustments were necessary;
- Look out for changes in someone’s mood/work and work together to tactile them rather than ignoring them.
If you need any advice or assistance with any of the issues within this article, contact our employment law team on 0207 388 1658 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We will also be holding a webinar on 15th September 2021 at 7pm to discussing menopause and other topics affecting women in the workplace, giving you tips on how to be more accommodating so save the date. Details on how to register for this event will follow shortly.
Laura Pearce, Senior Solicitor