The Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) has published new guidance to help employers manage and support the impact of menopause in the workplace.

The ACAS guidance highlights some of the common symptoms of perimenopause and menopause and sets out how employees and employers can work together to help find solutions. The guidance also includes helpful practical tips for employers to support employees going through the menopause.

Background

The menopause is a natural stage of life for women and symptoms can vary widely from mild to severe. With women over the age of 50 being the fastest growing group in the workforce, most will go through the menopause transition during their working lives. For many women, symptoms last around four years but, in some cases, the menopause can last up to ten or twelve years.

Recent CIPD research found that 59% of working women aged between 45 and 55 who are experiencing menopause symptoms said it has a negative impact on them at work – such as feeling tired, a lack of energy and inability to concentrate or focus,

Supporting the employee

The guidance includes steps an employer can follow, including:

  • Developing a policy, raising awareness and training managers on the effects and symptoms of menopause.
  • Offering an alternative first point of contact  such as a different manager, a member of HR or a trade union representative.
  • Carefully and sensitively managing sickness absence.

What does this mean for you or your business?

Nearly half of women said that the main reason for not disclosing that they were going through the menopause transition was due to privacy – a third said that it was due to unsupportive managers.

The ACAS guidance is aimed at both employers and employees to help them approach the subject in a respectful and sensitive way and so ensure  employees feel supported in the workplace.

The guidance also sets out a step-by-step approach for employers to follow when agreeing changes to work to help employees manage menopausal symptoms. This includes:

  • Providing a fan or appropriate heating/air-con
  • Flexible start and finish times
  • Allowing them to work from home when practical
  • And changing certain duties in the employee’s role

Be sure to have regular, informal catch-ups with employees to check whether the adjustments are effective and to see whether any extra support may be helpful.

What should employers be doing now?

Menopause is not specifically protected under the Equality Act 2010. However, if an employee is treated unfairly because of the menopause, it may amount to sex or age discrimination.

If there are  unwanted comments regarding a woman’s menopause symptoms and/or transition, allegations or a  claim for harassment might be raised. It is important for employers to be aware of their legal duties and the consequences of getting it wrong.

Subsequently, it is essential for an employer to support employees suffering with menopausal symptoms and raise awareness in the workplace, making reasonable adjustments where necessary, which may involve conducting risk assessments to identify the specific needs of menopausal employees.

Although some employees may complain that said colleague is being treated more favourably, managers do not have to make the same changes for other members in the team that are not suffering from menopausal symptoms.

Recommended Reading

In an effort to normalise the “taboo” subject, Channel 4 is the latest employer to launch a dedicated menopause policy for employers, announcing its action on World Menopause Day.

In addition to the recent ACAS guidance, CIPD have also published a practical guide for managers which can be found here.

You can read about some recent Employment Tribunal cases involving the menopause here.

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