Acas publishes guidance on addressing the impact of the menopause in the workplace
For those women who have, or previously had, perimenopausal or menopausal symptoms it is estimated that one in three women will experience severe symptoms whilst one in four will experience mild symptoms. Whilst menopause can affect women before they reach the age of 50 the statistics provide a helpful reference point for employers to understand how many women at any one time may be affected by the menopause.
Whilst menopause and perimenopause are not specifically protected under the Equality Act 2010, employers may be subject to claims for sex, disability or age discrimination should they treat an employee unfairly because of the menopause or perimenopause. Employers are also under a duty, by virtue of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 to ensure, where reasonably practical, the health, safety and welfare at work of their employees. This includes “making sure health and safety checks are in place, are regularly carried out, and risks minimised, reduced or where possible removed”.
The Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas) has recently published guidance for employers to help manage the impact that the menopause has in the workplace. In the guidance document, Acas suggests the following steps in order to support workers through the menopause:
- Make sure suitable health and safety checks are in place. This would include assessing the temperature and ventilation in the workplace; whether cold drinking water is easily available; if toilet and washroom facilities are easily accessible.
- Develop a workplace policy and ensure those with managerial/supervisory roles receive appropriate training. Acas advises that employers develop a policy in relation to the menopause. They also suggest that managers, supervisors and team leaders (or equivalent roles) are provided with training which covers the impact of perimenopause or menopause on workers; how to conduct a conversation with a worker who raises a perimenopausal or menopausal concern; the law surrounding this area; and the kinds of support or changes which might be appropriate to address perimenopausal or menopausal symptoms.
- Providing workers with the opportunity to discuss the perimenopause or menopause. Workers may find it difficult to address the topic of the menopause with their line manager, so it is important for employers to provide workers with access to others within the organisation with whom they can discuss the topic of the menopause. This may include HR, a counsellor, a menopause/wellbeing champion or a trade union representative.
- Manage sickness absence or decline in job performance carefully. Due to the long-term and fluctuating health changes the menopause can have on women, employers should be sympathetic when managing workplace absences and should be prepared to incorporate changes to minimise or eliminate the decline in job performance as a result of menopause symptoms. It is also suggested that workers are given a reasonable time to adjust to the changes they experience.
- Menopause or wellbeing champions. Acas has suggested that employers appoint either menopause or wellbeing champions who could be an initial point of contact for workers to talk to and also offer advice to managers.
Whilst the Acas guidance is not binding, it may be a useful tool for employers to refer to in order to address the issue of menopause in the workplace and to minimise the risk of claims being brought by employees for discrimination or breaches of health and safety. The guidance can be found here.
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