More women are citing menopause as a reason for claims of discrimination or unfair dismissal at tribunal. The number of cases which did so increased by 44% in 2021.
Menopause is not a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010. That said, over the last couple of years, women have brought successful claims for sex and age discrimination following the unacceptable responses of their employers to their menopause symptoms and its impact on their work.
More work is needed to help women who are suffering with symptoms feel they can remain in work while also being understood and encouraged.
Implementing training across the entire workplace is a positive step toward helping everyone start from the same point of education. Training allows employers to get everyone on the same page when it comes to understanding basics such as what the menopause is, common symptoms and how to help a colleague who might be struggling.
Partnering with Henpicked: The Menopause Friendly Association or Bloody Good Employers can provide external training and additional resources for employers without an in-house HR team, or those that want to pursue the menopause-friendly accreditation. Adding a menopause workplace policy sets out expectations, helping employees understand how to broach conversations with management.
Given the many and varied symptoms of menopause, there are a plethora of adjustments that could be made. Some examples might include access to temperature controls, an air conditioned office, desk fans, or a window, a quiet or darkened space to manage symptoms in private, and the provision of menstrual products and appropriate hygiene facilities such as enclosed bathroom stalls with sink and toilet, or access to showers and changing areas.
Other examples include a change in role or responsibilities to allow them to better manage their symptoms, such as a switch away from a customer-facing role, or reduction in physical duties, and an allowance of flexible working hours to manage symptoms at home, either a working-from-home policy or ability to leave early or start late.
Such is the nature of menopause symptoms that different employees are going to need different adjustments. Having an inclusive environment which demonstrates an organisation’s willingness to do what it can to alleviate stress and symptoms will make conversations that much easier.
For employers which provide support and menopause friendly workplaces, employees that directly benefit will be happier and more productive. An organisation which recognises the value of its employees no matter their age, stage of life, gender or disability is an attractive one in the marketplace.
Anna Dabek is an employment law expert at Anthony Collins