In the past, a topic such as the menopause would not even have been discussed in the workplace, let alone active support offered. Times have thankfully moved forward and supporting staff who are affected by the menopause should be on every employer’s agenda.

Menopause can affect women (and others who have a menstrual cycle) typically between the ages of 45-55, but it can also happen earlier or later.

Every woman will go through the menopause, although the symptoms can vary. These often include difficulty sleeping, anxiety, muscle and joint pain, hot flushes, and problems with concentration and memory (brain fog). Menopause is preceded by the perimenopause, which can also last several years and can involve similar symptoms. As a result, performance at work can be affected, and many women also report a significant impact on their confidence at work too.

All stages and types of the menopause are different, and symptoms can vary from person to person and in their severity. The statistics provide a helpful reference point for employers to understand how many people may be affected by the menopause.

Why does it matter?

Menopausal women are the fastest growing group of workers and there are an estimated 4.3 million women employed in the age group of 45-60. Menopause relates to the health and wellbeing of staff, and employers need to be aware that the menopause and its symptoms can affect staff and this awareness means that employers can take steps to ensure that staff are supported and can continue to perform well in their role.

While menopause will only be experienced by women and others who have a menstrual cycle, the impact is much wider. It will also have an impact on those who are supporting someone going through the menopause – such as partners, relatives, and colleagues. That’s why men and others who won’t experience it directly, must be included in conversations and receive training too.

The statistics are stark:

  • More than 75% of those who go through the menopause will experience symptoms.[1]
  • These symptoms last an average duration of 7 years and for 1 in 3 women, these symptoms will continue beyond 7 years[2]. This affects a huge proportion of the workforce, for a significant period of their working lives.
  • Almost a million women have left a job because of menopausal symptoms.[3]
The law

Menopause and perimenopause are not specifically protected under the Equality Act 2010. However, if a worker is treated unfairly because of the menopause or perimenopause, this could amount to discrimination due to sex; a disability; and/or age.

  • Sex discrimination– Unfair treatment of a worker because of their sex could lead to a discrimination claim, for example, if, when considering a drop in job performance, an employer treats a woman’s menopause or perimenopause symptoms less seriously than it would a male worker’s health condition.
  • Disability discrimination– A disability is a physical or mental impairment that has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on a person’s ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities. This is a broad definition and a worker’s menopause or perimenopause could potentially be regarded as a disability by an employment tribunal. If a worker has a disability, an employer must consider making reasonable adjustments to reduce or remove any disadvantages the worker experiences because of it.
  • Age discrimination– Workers are protected against unfair treatment because of their age. This may include unfair treatment of workers because they are going through the perimenopause or menopause.
  • In addition, the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 says an employer must, where reasonably practical, ensure health, safety and welfare at work.  An employer must minimise, reduce or where possible remove workplace health and safety risks for workers. This will involve carrying out a health and safety risk assessment to ensure menopausal symptoms are not made worse by the workplace and/or its work practices, and making changes to help a worker manage their symptoms when doing their job.

As a cautionary tale, it can cost a lot to get it wrong: In August 2023, Direct Line were ordered to pay a former employee nearly £65,000 after it failed to make reasonable adjustments when her role was affected by menopause symptoms[4].

What should we be doing?

No one expects employers to become hormone specialists, but increasing awareness, understanding and support is key. Thankfully, there are an increasing number of resources available to help.

We can help

We’re offering a fixed fee menopause policy drafting service. For a fixed price of £950 plus VAT, our team will prepare a bespoke menopause policy for your business. This includes:

  • A consultation to determine the best approach for your organisation and employees;
  • Advice from a dedicated team of experts who will work with you to create a policy unique to your organisation and its ethos.

Outside of this fixed fee package, our team of employment law experts are also on hand to work with you once you have your draft policy prepared, including:

  • Consulting with employees, staff associations and unions;
  • Advising on how to communicate with staff about the menopause policy;
  • Evolving your menopause policy in line with Government policy changes and other developments.

If this is something you’d like to discuss further, please get in touch.

Additionally, there is a wealth of online resources available:

Acas guidance

The Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas) published guidance for employers to help manage the impact that menopause has in the workplace[5]. This includes:

  1. Make sure suitable health and safety checks are in place. Including assessing the temperature and ventilation in the workplace, whether cold drinking water is easily available and if toilet and washroom facilities are easily accessible.
  2. 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 that 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.
  3. 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 issue. This may include HR, a counsellor, a menopause/wellbeing champion, or a trade union representative.
  4. Manage sickness absence or decline in job performance carefully. Due to the long-term and fluctuating health changes that 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.
  5. 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 offer advice to managers.

While the Acas guidance is not binding, it may be a useful tool for employers to refer to, 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.

CIPD guidance

The CIPD has recently issued a “Guide for People Professionals”[6] giving advice on how to provide effective support for employees who are experiencing the menopause. Suggestions include:

  1. Create an open, inclusive and supportive culture – communicate a positive approach and attitude, provide support for employees with help on how to alleviate their symptoms, and don’t make assumptions but use inclusive language to support anyone who wishes to discuss the matter.
  2. Develop a framework to support people – Be proactive and audit existing policies and procedures.
  3. Manage health and sickness absence – Treat the menopause in the same way as any other long-term health condition, make workplace adjustments, and carry out appropriate risk assessments.
  4. Promote good people management – People managers play a vital role, so it is essential that they are knowledgeable about the organisations’ framework and how to manage people with a health condition. Provide training and support for those people managers. Consider offering flexible working if possible to ensure that those working remotely also receive support. Don’t forget to manage performance positively.
  5. Specific People Manager guidance has also been published [7]

While discussions about the menopause in the workplace may still be new, this remains a longstanding matter of importance for many workers and their families. Take the time to implement proper frameworks of support, training and raise awareness. Not only will this reduce the risks of claims arising, but it will also demonstrate the organisation’s commitment to its workforce and boost employee relations.

 

 

[1] The British Menopause Society response to the Department of Health and Social Care’s call for evidence to help inform the development of the government’s Women’s Health Strategy – British Menopause Society (thebms.org.uk)

[2] The British Menopause Society response to the Department of Health and Social Care’s call for evidence to help inform the development of the government’s Women’s Health Strategy – British Menopause Society (thebms.org.uk)

[3] committees. parliament.uk/writtenevidence/39244/html/

[4] Microsoft Word – 1802204 – 22 1802386 – 2022 J dag sxd dda udc REMEDY J.docx (publishing.service.gov.uk)

[5] Supporting staff – Menopause at work – Acas

[6] The menopause at work: A guide for people professionals | CIPD

[7] The menopause at work: guidance for people managers | CIPD

Get In Touch

Cecily joined GL Law as a solicitor in the employment team in August 2017 prior to the merger with Shakespeare Martineau in October 2022.

Written By

Published: 23rd November 2023
Area: Employment

How We Can Help

Employment

From guidance on the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and support with largescale redundancies, to working from home and policies and other workplace issues, our team of experts are on hand to work with your HR teams to help with any issue, large or small.

Our Latest Employment Updates

Our experts are here to answer any questions you might have

If you’d like to speak to a member of our team, please fill out the enquiry form. We will aim to reply to your query within 2 hours

Need to talk to someone sooner? You can call using the number below

Call Us: 0330 024 0333