In July 2022, the House of Commons and Women Equalities Committee published a report titled “Menopause and the Workplace”. The report set out 12 recommendations intended to provide women with more rights in the workplace.
The report called for legislative reform and accused ministers of not making enough progress in terms of providing menopause support. In 2021, Employment Tribunal cases which cite menopause increased by 44% and according to a previous British Menopause Society survey, 45% of women said that their menopause symptoms had a negative impact on their work.
The report sought to amend the Equality Act 2010 to introduce menopause as a protected characteristic and introduce “menopause leave” pilots, similar to maternity leave, in England.
Ministers have, however, dismissed both the recommendation to make menopause a protected characteristic and for “menopause leave” pilots to be carried out. The government have stated that a pilot is not “necessary” and could be “counterproductive”. Regarding rejecting the proposal to make menopause a protected characteristic, the government warned of “unintended consequences which may inadvertently create new forms of discrimination”.
The commentary following the response to the proposals by the ministers is concerning and suggests that women will continue to be driven out of work because of the lack of support. The government have been heavily criticised for rejecting the proposal for “menopause leave” and for suggesting that flexible working remains to be the best approach.
This rejection of the proposals does not, of course, mean that employers should not do all they can to support women in the workplace. Many employers have now introduced specific menopause policies, setting out the support available for women in their place of work, along with training for managers. Whilst menopause is not a protected characteristic, employers are still at risk of falling foul of sex and age discrimination legislation if they treat women going through the menopause less favourably.
If you need assistance or advice on the contents of this article, please contact the Employment Team at Thackray Williams LLP 020 8290 0440.
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