Anna Schiavetta: Supporting menopause in the workplace

menopause Anna SchiavettaThere remains a considerable lack of awareness or understanding of menopause. With menopausal women constituting the fastest-growing demographic in today’s workforce, it is fundamental for employers to be aware of the ways they can support their employees who are going through the menopause. There are crucial considerations for employers and potential consequences when obligations are not met.

For women going through the menopause, there are a substantial number of symptoms, that are at times debilitating, which can significantly impact a person’s capability to perform their role and engage in daily activities. Menopause is not a safeguarded characteristic under the Equality Act 2010; however, sex, age and disability ensure protection against workplace mistreatment for people going through the menopause.

Employers must acknowledge that employees can request reasonable adjustments in the workplace for symptoms falling within the disability definition. This can include flexible working, adjusted performance targets, a change in role, uniform modifications, or providing auxiliary aids.

It is crucial for employers to foster an environment with open communication, as this can, in turn, make employees feel at ease and supported in discussing the menopause and its effects. It can also prevent them from being hesitant to disclose the cause of their absence from work if it is menopause-related.

The employment team at Blacks Solicitors represented Maxine Lynskey in a discrimination case against Direct Line, alleging discrimination based on the menopause as a disability in her case. Lynskey received nearly £65,000 in compensation for disability discrimination when her manager denied a pay rise, attributing it to underperformance. Owing to the onset of the menopause, Lynskey experienced ‘brain fog’, concentration problems and memory issues, resulting in her manager deeming her performance as ‘need for improvement’.

This demonstrates the importance of employers meeting their obligations to avoid significant financial and reputational consequences.

Anna Schiavetta is an employment law solicitor at Blacks Solicitors