The government has published its response to the Women and Equalities Committee’s report on menopause and the workplace, which included recommendations regarding a dedicated menopause leave pilot.
It outright rejected five of the Committee’s recommendations, including to consult on making menopause a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010, and to pilot a specific menopause leave policy. However, the government stated that it has accepted, partly accepted or accepted in principle six of the recommendations.
The Committee’s report, published in July 2022, argued that due to the impact of the menopause being overlooked, the UK economy is losing valuable talent. It also claimed that the current law does not sufficiently protect women and does not offer proper redress to those who suffer menopause related discrimination, as many women have to demonstrate that their symptoms amount to a disability to get redress.
Caroline Nokes MP, chair of the Women and Equalities Committee, said: “This belated response to our report is a missed opportunity to protect vast numbers of talented and experienced women from leaving the workforce, and leaves me unconvinced that menopause is a government priority.”
Katie Maguire, employment partner at Devonshires, added: “The government [is] wrong when [it says] making the menopause a characteristic would be discriminatory against men, and this decision is a massive cop out. Making menopause a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010 would have given women clearer protection.”
Hilary Messer, senior associate at Gardner Leader, said: “I am bitterly disappointed with the report that ministers have thrown out the proposed plan to introduce what was only ever a pilot scheme. Symptoms last for years and years and meet the statutory definition of disability already, but women rarely say anything at all to their employer, leading to a haemorrhage of talented individuals quitting the workforce just when they are often at the peak of their careers and in some instances worse.”
Siobhan Fitzgerald, employment partner at TLT, said: “Introducing a menopause policy is a baseline requirement, which we always recommend employers to introduce. Other measures also include training and talks to educate about the challenges employees may face when transitioning through menopause, appointing trained menopause champions to provide support, establishing menopause networks to share experiences and adjusting existing workplace policies and procedures.”