With menopause-related tribunal cases on the rise, employers need to carefully consider the issue of the effects of the menopause in the workplace and provide a supportive working environment

It is essential that employers create a supportive environment for employees as research suggests that around 1 in 4 women in the workplace suffer from the effects of menopause.

According to research by BUPA in 2019, it is estimated that around 900,000 employees left their jobs due to menopausal symptoms. It is estimated that 14 million days are lost every year in the UK as a result of time taken off work due to menopausal symptoms.

The number of menopausal Tribunal cases is expected to double next year, according to further recent research.

Therefore it is important that employers are aware of the potential impact the menopause has on the workforce and, take steps to support their employees’ health during the menopause.

Is menopause a disability for the purposes of a discrimination claim?

Under the Equality Act 2010, a person is disabled if they have a physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on their ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.

Menopause itself is not automatically considered a disability. However, the symptoms caused by menopause can be both physical and psychological, can vary in their severity, and can ultimately also have a significant impact on day-to-day activities and ability to perform as usual in the workplace. To this extent, menopause can amount to a disability, so care needs to be taken. Employers should make appropriate adjustments to support their employees.

This was confirmed in the 2018 case of Davies v Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service where Mrs Davies was deemed to be disabled because of her transition symptoms.

It is also possible for menopause-related discrimination to occur in other contexts, such as:

  • Claims arising from the less favourable treatment of employees undergoing menopause.
  • Claims for indirect discrimination as a result of workplace policies placing those suffering from menopause at an unfair disadvantage to those who are not.

Therefore, care must be taken and support needs to be provided by employers in their approach to menopause in the workplace and the impact it can have on employees, an impact that is being increasingly recognised by the tribunals.

Positive steps that can be taken by an employer

  1. Introduce a menopause policy. Although this is not a mandatory requirement, it demonstrates the employer’s commitment to supporting their employees and clearly sets out their approach to dealing with menopause-related workplace issues. This allows an employee to know how they can get support, what reasonable adjustments are available to them and what HR support they can seek such as access to flexible working. If this is of interest, a workplace policy relating to menopause is a document that the Employment Team at Lupton Fawcett can draft for your organisation for at a cost of just £250 plus VAT.
  2. Have open and honest conversations on the topic of menopause. This could include hosting events within the workplace to discuss and raise awareness of the topic so that other employees not affected by it can also understand and be considerate to its effects in the workplace.
  3. Develop training on menopause and its effects so that employees are well-trained on dealing with menopause-related workplace issues and can offer their own support to those who need it.
  4. Improve the working environment by for example ensuring that there is access to fans and good ventilation
  5. Carry out a risk assessment to consider the needs of peri-menopausal women and make any adjustments accordingly.

Moving forward

The Government recently outlined action it intends to take to address menopause issues within the workplace. This included proactively recommending employers consider offering flexible working options to menopausal employees and also encouraging them to introduce policies detailing their approach to tackling menopause-related workplace issues. This highlights the increasing need to carefully consider menopause within the workplace.

Given the complex nature of employment law and the need to ensure all workforce issues are equally considered, it is important to take legal advice from specialist lawyers.  Our Employment Team at Lupton Fawcett LLP are a multi-awarded team which can give specialist advice on any employment matter affecting you or your business. If you would like some advice on any issues raised in this article, please do not hesitate to get in contact with a member of our team who will be able to advise you.

Please note this information is provided by way of example and may not be complete and is certainly not intended to constitute legal advice. You should take bespoke advice for your circumstances.

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