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19 Oct 2022

Menopause and the workplace: practical tips for employers

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The World Health Organisation and the International Menopause Society designated October as "World Menopause Month" to raise awareness about the menopause. With an increasing awareness of this topic we've also seen a rise in the amount of employees referencing the menopause at the centre of their unfair dismissal and sex discrimination claims. In 2021 alone, there was a staggering 44% increase in employment tribunal cases which cited the menopause, compared to the previous year1. It's a topic that employers need to understand, to support employees and also protect themselves against litigation related to the menopause. 

In this alert we consider recent developments related to the menopause and the workplace and provide employers with practical tips to support employees.    

Current state of play

The Women and Equalities Committee Report

In July 2022 the Women and Equalities Committee published a report calling for the government to introduce a number of measures including:

  • introducing the "menopause" as a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010;
  • enacting the dual discrimination provisions within the Equality Act 2010 which would allow for claims based on a combined discrimination for example sex and age;
  • including a duty for employers to provide reasonable adjustments for menopausal employees; and
  • appointing a Menopause Ambassador to help introduce model workplace policies.

Government response to menopause consultation

In July 2022 the government published a response to a menopause consultation. Key takeaways from the response include:

  • the government's view that that the menopause is afforded protection by other characteristics (sex, age and disability) and it will not be introducing menopause as a standalone protected characteristic nor enacting dual discrimination provisions within the Equality Act 2010;
  • it will launch a new collaborative employer-led campaign to be led by Menopause Employment Champion(s); and
  • a recommendation that large employers put in place workplace awareness training and support via Employee Assistance Programmes.

Whilst no direct legislative changes have been introduced employers are now actively being encouraged to consider facilitating a better environment for employees going through the menopause. The following section provides some ideas for how to approach this.

Practical tips for employers

Introducing a menopause policy

Employers should consider creating a menopause policy setting out an employer's approach to dealing with workplace issues relating to the menopause. Such a policy could encourage open conversations between managers and staff about the menopause, as well as detailing any support and adjustments which can be offered to further assist employees.

Raise awareness and provide training

The menopause has historically been a taboo topic about which many felt uncomfortable speaking. Employers are encouraged to train their employees and line managers on what the menopause is and how it affects individuals. Without understanding the symptoms and the effects these could have on the individual, employers are likely to be unable to effectively assess whether certain measures or adjustments need to be made.

Menopause hubs

Employers can consider a 'Menopause Hub' a central portal to collate relevant information about the menopause and the workplace.  It can allow employees to easily access information about policies, procedures, educational materials and frequently asked questions.

Menopause champions

Consider appointing one or more employees as 'Menopause Champion(s)'. These champions would need to be trained and they would assist in promoting dialogue about the menopause and the workplace and be able to direct employees to appropriate resources and support.

The Menopause Workplace Pledge

This is a campaign calling on employers to sign a pledge and actively commit to providing menopause support. The pledge has been signed by well-known companies such as Amazon, AstraZeneca, BMW, Tesco and many more. The pledge indicates a positive step for employers, as they commit to: recognising that the menopause can be an issue in the workplace and women need support; talking openly, positively and respectfully about the menopause; and actively supporting and informing employees affected by the menopause. 

Adjustments

Employers should consider any adjustments they can make to support employees going through the menopause such as:

  • Flexible working arrangements which may assist those suffering from menopausal symptoms e.g. increased home-working or avoiding commuting in rush hour.
  • Harnessing a comfortable working environment through adjustments such as temperature-controlled areas, toilet access on all floors, access to hot and cold water on each floor.
  • Conducting risk assessments, in line with an employer’s health and safety obligations, to consider the needs of menopausal staff and introducing appropriate adjustments e.g. providing desk fans, good ventilation, natural light and access to quiet spaces.

For more information on the menopause and legal risks to employers please see our previous e-alert (Click Here).

If you have any questions on the topic covered in this alert or would like us to draft a menopause policy for you. please contact Paul Reeves, Leanne Raven, Imogen Heywood-Lee, Eirini Haidemenos or your usual Stephenson Harwood contact.

 
 
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KEY CONTACT

Paul Reeves

Paul Reeves
Head of employment

T:  +44 20 7809 2916 M:  +44 7919 694 135 Email Paul | Vcard Office:  London

Imogen Heywood-Lee

Imogen Heywood-Lee
Associate

T:  +44 20 7809 2501 M:  +44 79 3550 3767 Email Imogen | Vcard Office:  London

Leanne Raven

Leanne Raven
Senior knowledge development lawyer

T:  +44 20 7809 2560 M:  +44 7827 353 108 Email Leanne | Vcard Office:  London