Jenny Arrowsmith: The growing issue of menopause in the workplace

Jenny ArrowsmithHM Courts and Tribunal Service’s June 2023 data revealed an increasing number of employment tribunal cases citing menopause as a contributing factor. There has been a steady rise in cases over the past few years. In 2017, there were five cases, increasing to six in 2018 and seven in 2019. However, the numbers increased to 16 cases in 2020 and further increased to 23 cases in 2021. Although 2022 saw a slight dip to 18 cases, the first half of 2023 has already recorded 14 cases, suggesting this year may surpass the previous record.

These figures are likely to represent only a fraction of the actual cases involving the menopause. Many women settle claims before they reach a hearing and these figures are not captured.

Tribunals are increasingly accepting that menopausal symptoms meet the legal definition of disability contained in the Equality Act 2010, which triggers the duty on employers to make reasonable adjustments so that women can continue to thrive at work.

Women are beginning to discuss menopause openly and are becoming more confident in asking their employers for support to help them cope with the debilitating symptoms that often accompany it. The number of people who experience the menopause while working is increasing and employers need to develop strategies to respond to these sorts of requests.

By addressing menopause in the workplace, employers can reduce the risk of legal disputes and improve overall employee wellbeing and productivity. Creating an open and supportive environment where individuals feel comfortable discussing menopause-related challenges can make a significant difference.

While progress has been made in raising awareness about the menopause and its impact on the workplace, these increasing case numbers show that more needs to be done. Businesses must, therefore, acknowledge menopause as an issue that affects their employees and provide adequate support.

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Employers need to ensure that women experiencing menopause are treated with empathy and understanding. By taking proactive measures to address it, businesses can create a more inclusive and supportive environment, benefiting both their employees and the overall success of the organisation.

Jenny Arrowsmith is an employment partner at Irwin Mitchell