August 11, 2022
Despite menopause impacting half of the global workforce, it’s an ageing process that many suffer through in silence. As a condition synonymous with mood changes, sleep issues, and hot flushes, it can be a difficult reality for many going through the change, particularly in a working environment. Despite this, a stark 90% of women* state their workplaces offer no help for menopausal women.
In the UK, the average age for a woman starting the menopause is 51, but around one in 100 women will experience the menopause before 40 years of age. This means that, despite some assertions this is not a work-related matter, this is an issue impacting much of the UK’s ageing workforce.
So much so, that the Minister for Employment recently commissioned a report regards menopause and employment, which the government has now responded to. In this article we’ll break down the government response, the duty of care to menopausal women, and what you as an employer can do to improve the lives of your workers.
*not all people who experience menopause are women, but research in this area is unfortunately limited.
The government has recently responded to an independent report, which was commissioned by the Minister for Employment, regarding menopause and employment. In its response, the government stated that it does not believe that there are any changes needed to the Equality Act 2010 to further protect people going through the menopause at work. Essentially, the government has concluded that the existing protections under the Equality Act provide adequate protection against unlawful treatment.
The Women and Equalities Committee has published a separate report on menopause in the workplace and has taken a different stance to that taken by the government. Two of the Committee’s key recommendations are
(1) for the government to enact section 14 of the Equality Act which protects against multiple discrimination (i.e., discrimination related to a combination of two protected characteristics) and
(2) to add a new protected characteristic under the Equality Act to give specific protection related to menopause (including a duty to make reasonable adjustments for employees experiencing menopause). The government has not yet responded to the Committee’s report.
While it is yet to been seen whether the government will change its position, employers would do well to remember that, while menopause is not itself a protected characteristic, employees are still protected from discrimination on the basis of age, sex and disability.
Menopause is a key workplace issue which is attracting more are more attention. According to a Labour Force Survey, women of menopausal age (45-54 – although menopause can occur at different times) make up 11% of all people in employment. A lack of understanding, alongside discrimination and poor employment practices, risks pushing affected people out of the workforce. All employers should therefore ensure that they are including menopause when looking at their workplace policies and practices.
Some suggestions for employers:
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