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Posted on 8 July 2022

Employers need to improve menopause support

Posted in Advice

A Fawcett Society and Channel 4 survey recently highlighted the shocking reality of how menopausal symptoms are impacting women in the workplace. The report focuses on women aged between 45 and 55, and highlights an urgent need for more education among employers, and the wider workforce, around how best to support female colleagues.

Rise in employment tribunal cases relating to the menopause 

Sadly, misconceptions still prevail around this life event, and while there has been some improvement in awareness over the last few years, many employers still lack basic knowledge or support frameworks. This is evidenced by rising numbers of employment tribunal cases relating to the menopause, many of which could arguably have been avoided.

HR teams must become more proactive by:

  • helping colleagues
  • training management
  • training employees
  • introducing appropriate workplace policies.

Legal implications managing menopause in the workplace

On average menopausal symptoms last for around four years, but for one in 100 women they can last up to 12. Symptoms can include hot flushes, difficulty sleeping, problems with memory and concentration, low moodb anxiety, joint stiffness and aches and pains, all of which can impact every aspect of a woman’s life.

Legal cases relating to the menopause have been brought under age, sex and disability discrimination legislation, and there are campaigns to provide further certainty by making the transition a ‘protected characteristic’.

What can an employer do to help employees going through the menopause?

Claims often centre on a lack of reasonable adjustments to an employees’ working conditions, including working hours, rest breaks and reviewing uniform policies. There are also instances of unfair and constructive dismissal claims where an individual’s performance has been affected, but the underlying cause hasn’t been considered.  

These cases not only have a reputational and financial impact, they can lead to loss of talented and experienced staff, for want of awareness. This is why investing in menopause-related policies, training and procedures is not a ‘nice to have’ but should be a key concern.

Employer support is key

There’s an urgent need to support workers affected by menopausal symptoms with cost-effective, practical initiatives that benefit everyone, not just those in transition. A good starting point is to ensure it is included within a diversity policy alongside the full spectrum of gender, ethnicity, background, education, disability and health-related matters.

Combined with workshops and training, this recognition and awareness raising helps develop a supportive and inclusive working environment, which lessens the risk of legal issues arising.

Everyone’s experiences and symptoms of the menopause are different, so it’s important to recognise there’s 'no-one size fits all' solution.

Empowering employees and creating a culture that normalises talking about the menopause (and health) is vital, as is giving the confidence to colleagues to speak up and the ability to signpost them to further support when required. This can be done by training nominated HR team members, senior, board-level staff, or voluntary menopause champions. 

Resources from The Menopause Charity and organisations are extremely valuable in helping build knowledge and create this supportive framework. 

Stepping up

Equality is only moving further up the agenda. There’s now a campaign by several charities for employers to provide menstrual leave for severe pain, following a new draft bill in Spain, that would allow women with painful periods to have three days off a month.

While current UK law’s only provision is sick leave, it demonstrates the direction of travel with regard to best practice and policy.

The UK government has proposed changes for how menopause in the workplace is handled but, rather than wait for this, employers should be proactive and ahead of the curve. Businesses that aren’t may find themselves losing experienced, talented women and exposing themselves to legal and reputational risk.

We can assist in drafting an appropriate policy and provide advice in relation to claims and grievances raised by your employees in this very sensitive area. 

Contact Paul today