Menopause

Advice  |   6 December 2021

Written by
Lisa Rothon, Associate Solicitor

The topic of menopause has been propelled into the spotlight over the preceding months and we have seen increasing coverage of the matter in newspapers, magazines, online articles, podcasts, and on the TV, with October being Menopause Awareness month.

With great strides being taken to encourage people to talk more openly at work about big issues, such as mental health, we are also seeing an increase in the advice and guidance available for employers to broach, what still seems to be, the challenging topic of menopause.

However, with many employers having spent the last eighteen to twenty-four months focused on keeping business alive, staff employed, and following the ever-changing government guidance on workplaces during the Covid-19 pandemic, it is likely that there will be some businesses out there who feel that they have perhaps missed the rolling menopause movement.

Why is the menopause important?

Menopause will impact all women, as well as some transgender individuals who no longer identify as women. Menopause is part of the natural aging process and usually occurs in menopausal people in their forties and fifties, but for approximately one in ten it can occur earlier. There will also be non-binary and intersex people who may experience menopause symptoms as a result of treatments such as hormone therapy.

The symptoms of the menopause vary in severity from person to person but with more than three million menopausal people aged over fifty in work, the menopause impacts a large, growing proportion of the working population.

For some, the symptoms of the menopause can have a significant impact on their day-to-day activities and ability to perform as usual in the workplace, with research by the CIPD showing that 59% of working women aged forty-five and fifty-five, who are experiencing menopause symptoms, saying it negatively affects them at work.

Legal Implications

Until recently, very few UK Employment Tribunal cases have cited menopause discrimination as the reason for less favourable and/or unfair treatment by employers however, recent trends show that this has changed dramatically over the past few years.

Menopause itself is not a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010 but Tribunals are seeing an increasing number of claims being issued based on grounds of age, sex and/or disability discrimination (where the affects of the menopause have a significant adverse impact on a person’s ability to carry out day-to-day activities) which cite the menopause, including ten cases in the first six months of 2021. According to data from Menopause Experts Group, as outlined in an article by The Guardian, the number of employment tribunals involving the menopause has tripled in three years.

Whilst the topic of menopause continues to be a difficult one for some employers and employees to discuss, given its personal nature, employers are being encouraged to acknowledge those menopausal people within their workforce and provide support for their side effects to ensure a happy and productive workplace where menopausal people feel comfortable and to reduce the risk of disputes and litigation.

Reducing the risk

A menopause policy is a great starting point for employers to raise awareness and discourage discrimination in this area. Several household-name employers have demonstrated investment in this.

Employers are also encouraged to help destigmatise menopause in the workplace by enhancing understanding and challenging menopause-related banter.

Should you require any advice regarding the content of this article or assistance with drafting a Menopause Policy, the Employment Team at Thackray Williams would be happy to assist and can be contacted on 020 8290 0440.

The team will also be running a Menopause webinar in early 2022. If you would like to register your interest, please email – info@thackraywilliams.com, citing in the subject box “Menopause Webinar

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