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Time to take the heat off menopausal women

On 22 February 2024, the EHRC released guidance and resources for employers designed to help employers understand their legal obligations in relation to supporting workers experiencing menopausal symptoms.

CIPD research has shown that two thirds of working women with menopausal symptoms have found these to have a negative impact on them at work.

The guidance includes explainer videos, which explain:

  • how menopause may be protected under the Equality Act,
  • example workplace adjustments that employers could consider,
  • guidance on conducting conversations about menopause

The main change that this guidance is bringing is a confirmation that menopause could be a disability under the Equality Act. Whilst this is not a new protection for menopausal workers, having it confirmed as a possible disability, and the legal obligations in respect of this clearly detailed to employers, does offer some additional protection to women experiencing menopausal symptoms.

Menopause under the Equality Act

The guidance explains that where menopause can have a long term and substantial impact on a woman’s ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities, it may be classed as a disability under the Equality Act 2010. Employers will therefore have a duty to make reasonable adjustments for women who meet this definition, and have a legal obligation not to discriminate against the woman because of the disability, or something arising from the disability.

Menopausal or perimenopausal women may also be protected under age or sex characteristics under the Equality Act.

Workplace Adjustments

If a worker is considered disabled due to Menopause as above, Employers will have a legal obligation to consider and make reasonable adjustments. The reasonable adjustments are also important in order for employers to fulfil health and safety obligations, and employers have a legal obligation to carry out risk assessments to identify where these are needed.

Key adjustments for employers to consider:

  • physical working environment including temperature and ventilation
  • providing rest areas or quiet rooms
  • relaxing uniform policies or allowing cooler clothing
  • promoting flexible working including work from home, and varied work hours

The guidance recommends recording menopausal related absence separately to other different absences. It further explains that taking disciplinary action because of menopausal related absences could be discrimination of something arising from a disability, unless justifiable with a legitimate aim.

The guidance suggests that making these changes to the workplace and working environment do not need to be difficult or costly, and the benefits financially, and in terms of talent retention outweigh the risk of costs should a worker bring a claim for failure to make reasonable adjustments.

Lucy Densham Brown

Solicitor

View profile

+44 118 960 4655

CIPD research has shown that two thirds of working women with menopausal symptoms have found these to have a negative impact on them at work.

Conversations about Menopause

The guidance recommends having open conversations about menopause and adjustments. It further suggests including all colleagues in these conversations not just managers, so that workers will feel confident in supporting their colleagues. The guidance recommends using training, lunch and learns, and groups for women to discuss their experiences and get support.

The guidance recommends one to ones with managers to discuss any issues, and that these conversations happen regularly and any adjustments are kept under review. Further the guidance recommends that employers implement a menopause policy which outlines the support available and provides guidance to managers and colleagues.

About this article

Disclaimer
This information is for guidance purposes only and should not be regarded as a substitute for taking legal advice. Please refer to the full General Notices on our website.

Lucy Densham Brown

Solicitor

View profile

+44 118 960 4655

About this article

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