As the population in general gets older, employers are having to deal with many issues linked to having an older workforce. One of these issues is the menopause and the difficulties it can cause for staff who are going through it.
Employers have typically been slow to recognise the issues faced by menopausal women, and many women feel uncomfortable discussing it, as it is often seen as a taboo subject. However, acknowledging these difficulties and assisting women to remain in work in spite of them, will be a significant factor in retaining female staff in this age bracket. Retention of experienced staff (whatever gender) is vital in avoiding the loss of key skills and experience from the organisation. Retention of older female staff can also have benefits in addressing the gender pay gap.
Menopause: The facts
The menopause is a natural stage of life for women, usually in their late forties/early fifties, although it can also happen earlier or later. Part of the process includes the “perimenopause” which is when a woman's body is starting to change.
There are many symptoms of the menopause including: hot flushes; difficulty sleeping and night sweats; feeling tired and lacking energy; mood swings; anxiety and panic attacks; difficulty concentrating and focussing; and migraines and other aches and pains.
It is important to note that the menopause affects every woman differently both emotionally and physically. The impact it has on an individual’s health can affect how they work, their relationships with colleagues and has knock-on effects on absence and productivity.
Menopause: The law
The 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 because of, for example, their sex; a disability; and/or their age.
Sex discrimination - Unfair treatment of a worker because of their sex could lead to a discrimination claim, for example if an employer treats a woman's menopause or perimenopause symptoms less seriously than it would a male worker's health condition when considering a drop in job performance.
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 changes to reduce or remove any disadvantages the worker experiences because of it (i.e. reasonable adjustments).
Age discrimination - Workers are protected against unfair treatment because of their age. This may include unfair treatment of workers because thy 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 with a view to ensuring 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.
Menopause: Your questions answered
Our fixed fee menopause policy
We’re offering a fixed fee menopause policy drafting service. For a fixed price of £950 plus VAT*, our team of experts 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
Get In Contact
Helen is an experienced employment lawyer, who works proactively with clients to identify solutions to complex HR issues. Helen has worked with a number of client to implement a menopause policy across a variety of sectors.