October 18 sees this year’s Menopause Awareness Day.
According to research from the Government’s Equalities Office, working women have experienced gendered ageism at work where the culture is unsympathetic, as well as being made to feel embarrassed by their symptoms.
What rights do women have at work?
Poorly prepared managers and employers can find themselves defending their behaviour in an Employment Tribunal. There have already been several successful relating to menopause symptoms.
One example would be a claim for sex discrimination and unfair dismissal if a manager fails to properly consider the effects of the menopause on someone’s performance. hot flushes, headaches, heavy periods, sleep disturbance, poor memory, depression, anxiety and irritability can all affect someone’s ability to do their job.
Other potential claims include disability discrimination where ‘typical’ menopause symptoms can amount to a disability under the Equality Act 2010. Disabled employees are protected under the Act and employers have to make reasonable adjustments for those employees at work.
The Women and Equalities Select Committee is currently carrying out an enquiry into menopause in the workplace. They are examining existing legislation to consider whether menopause should be added to the Equality Act 2010 as a protected characteristic of its own.
What can employers do to support their employees who are going through menopause at work?
Acas produced guidance on menopause at work, which includes suggestions how employers can support women with menopause transition symptoms. Acas underlines that employers are encouraged to take any steps sensitively and to take advice where menopause may be a factor in workplace issues.
Steps can include
- Introducing a policy explaining the support offered
- Training line managers to increase their confidence to discuss issues with employees
- Equalities training to increase awareness of the menopause transition, with the aim that greater understanding will lead to a cultural shift
- Allowing frequent breaks to access toilets
- Improving ventilation and providing desk fans
- Flexible working
- Adjustments to hours and allowing employees to take the day off or to swop shifts on a bad day
- Changing uniforms from synthetic to natural fibres
All of these supportive actions from an employer would allow employees to feel more able to go to work properly and comfortably when going through menopause transition, without having to worry on their ability to do the job and the security of their role and effects on performance. It would also decrease the likelihood of employers having multiple claims made against them, such as sexual discrimination or disability discrimination.
We can advise you on how to support your employees experiencing transition. To minimise the risk of claims, we can also guide you through any workplace issues where menopause transition may be a factor.
5th October 2021