The menopause is covered by the Equality Act 2010 as it comes under the protected characteristics of sex, age and disability. In terms of health and safety in the workplace, the menopause is also covered by the Health and Safety at Work act 1974.
But in the UK, having specific policies in place that protect employees experiencing the perimenopause and the menopause isn’t currently the law – but it could be soon
So it’s now advised that, in order to help support employees and make them feel valued and also to avoid tribunals that are stressful for both employee and employers, all workplaces have menopause policies
Plus, a current parliamentary inquiry ‘An invisible cohort: why are workplaces failing women going through menopause’ is underway, led by the Women and Equalities Committee. This aims to examine whether the current legislation in the UK is enough, or if specific workplace measures are required.
In addition to this, there have already been tribunals where female employees have successfully argued against their employer in protecting them at work whilst they experience the menopause
If you’re an employer without a menopause policy in place, this should be food for thought. Not least if you want to be seen by current and prospective employees as an employer who values their staff.
The symptoms of the menopause include hot flushes, headaches, mood swings, brain fog and difficulty focusing and concentrating. All of which are distressing and upsetting, especially so in the workplace, where they can feel magnified, more so if the workplace isn’t outwardly supportive of the menopause.
An employee can successfully take an employer to a tribunal if they’ve been discriminated against because of the menopause
This can include the workplace failing to make reasonable adjustments to the workplace to allow for symptoms, such as good ventilation and desk fans. This can also be the case if the employee has been subjected to jokes and comments about the menopause and the woman’s ability to do her job.
Neither employee or employer wants things to get this far, which is why it’s now so important to get policies and support into place
Training and enforcing an open discussion environment about the menopause and what it involves for all staff, regardless of gender or age, is also vital.
Educating all staff on what the menopause is, the common symptoms and how to talk about it correctly is also key
As is offering support in all forms including time off for medical appointments. Easily accessible toilets, rest areas, fresh air and drinking water can all also help to minimise the impact of troubling menopause symptoms.
In terms of health and safety, risk assessments for anyone experiencing the menopause should include making sure that the working environment does not cause any symptoms such as hot flushes, feel worse and more uncomfortable. If any hazards are highlighted, employees and employers should work together to rectify them.
Workplaces should also have a well-publicised, accessible policy document on the menopause with all staff understanding how to access it.