On 18 October every year, World Menopause Day is observed around the globe to raise awareness of the impact the menopause can have on women’s everyday lives. Many women suffer with their menopause symptoms, particularly at work. Acas has produced guidelines for managing the impact of the menopause at work as doing so is important for both workers and employers.
An employer is under a duty to provide a healthy and safe working environment for their employees as set out in the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. In order to minimise, reduce, or remove health and safety risks for workers, employers should ensure menopausal symptoms, such as feeling ill or losing confidence to do their job, are not made worse by a worker’s working environment. For example, an employer should manage the temperature and ventilation in the workplace and provide somewhere suitable for workers to rest.
Acas guidelines provide that employers should develop a policy and train all managers, supervisors and team leaders to ensure they understand what support and changes might be suitable for a worker and how to have a conversation with a worker who raises concerns about their menopause symptoms and how these are affecting their work. Channel 4 have recently launched a Menopause Policy for employees to provide women with access to flexible working arrangements, and cool and quiet workplaces in an effort to normalise what is a “taboo” subject.
The menopause could be a long term and unpredictable health change. For many women symptoms last for around four years, but it can last for longer, and up to twelve years. For this reason, managing absence from work effectively is important and both the employer and employee should be prepared to make changes to help the employee continue to work. Menopause symptoms have been recognised as a disability in the employment tribunal and it is therefore good practice, and advisable, for an employer to consider making reasonable adjustments for a worker experiencing the symptoms of menopause.
Discussing the menopause may be difficult for both the employer and the employee as it is a personal and delicate subject. An employer should leave the employee to decide if they want to discuss their concerns and should not suggest that the employee is suffering with menopausal symptoms if they have not raised the issue themselves.
There are steps towards agreeing changes at work to help an employee manage their symptoms. These include; an employee visiting their GP, confidential discussions being held between the employee and their manager, agreeing changes in writing and having follow-up discussions to ensure that the changes are working for both the employee and the employer. If they are not working, further changes may need to be made in order to facilitate the employee in carrying out their role effectively at work.
An employer should be wary of the risk of discriminating against an employee on the grounds of sex, disability or age, which are three of the nine protected characteristics under the Equality Act 2010. It is therefore very much in the interests of an employer to support workers as much as it is in the employee’s interests.
Thackray Williams employment law specialists will be able to assist you, whether you are an employer or employee, with any queries you may have in relation to managing menopause symptoms in the workplace.