Dayna Rodrigues

Solicitor

DATE PUBLISHED: 08 Mar 2024 LAST UPDATED: 08 Mar 2024

International Women’s Day and reflecting on menopausal related difficulties in the workplace

The campaign theme for International Women’s Day 2024 is Inspire Inclusion.

Reflecting on the difficulties experienced by women in the workplace and/or causing women not to re-enter or to leave the workplace, we consider the particularly prominent issue of the difficulties experienced by peri and menopausal women at work, how these difficulties could be preventatively challenged by your business and the associated legal risks of not supporting your female staff.

Menopause and the effects

Menopause will affect all women in life usually between the ages of 45 and 55 and women experiencing the menopause are the fastest growing demographic in the UK workforce. Last year (2023) it was estimated that there were around 13 million perimenopausal or menopausal women in the UK which amounts to approximately one third of the female population.

Menopause can cause anxiety, mood swings, depression, hot flushes, brain fog, insomnia, irritability and nervousness amongst other symptoms. Understandably, this can dramatically and negatively impact not only personal life but life in the workplace. Read more about menopause, what it is and types of treatment from The John Hopkins University.

Lack of awareness and stigma

A UCL led study reported in 2023 that more than 90% of postmenopausal women were not taught about the menopause at school. Moreover, a general lack of awareness, education, training in professional environments and social stigma the daily experience of peri and menopausal women is frequently overlooked and trivialised. The Menopause Charity reports that around 10% of women leave their jobs due to menopause.

A survey conducted by FORTH in 2023 revealed that 90% of workplaces have no formal support for women experience menopause and that more than 1 in 10 people believe women experience menopause should not be entitled to any sick leave.

Discrimination legislation

The Equality Act 2010 sets out core anti-discrimination laws in England and Wales, pursuant to which a person is protected against discrimination related to or because of a protected characteristic. The protected characteristic include sex, age and disability respectively.

Accordingly, women experiencing menopause are protected from discrimination related to or because of their female gender and/or age.

Under the Equality Act 2010, a person has a disability if:

  1. They have a physical or mental impairment; and
  2. The impairment has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on the person’s ability to carry out normal day to day activities.

Usually long term is deemed as being at least or likely to last for 12 months or longer.

It follows that a women experiencing the menopause may also be protected from disability discrimination.

Possible measures

The DWP reports that commons measures that are being identified and introduced across many businesses to tackle menopause related difficulties in the workplace include:

  • Introducing workplace policies;
  • Management training;
  • Uniform reviews;
  • Safe spaces;
  • One to one support; and
  • Reasonable adjustments.

Introducing a straightforward menopausal policy in the workplace can help promote a gender, age and disability inclusive workforce. Such policies should be regularly monitored to ensure they are working in practice and updated where necessary. A menopause policy would work in harmony with your business’ equality and diversity policy.

Possible reasonable adjustments could include reasonable flexibility around dress code, home working, being transferred to a desk nearer a window and/or offering a flexible working arrangement.

Commercial considerations

Tacking menopause related difficulties in the workplace preventatively, could mitigate the risk for your business of losing and/or struggling to attract good workers, reduced productivity and morale, having to undergo lengthy grievance investigations or worst case scenario, having to defend employment tribunal claims.

Sometimes the simplest adjustment could help your peri and menopausal staff feel more comfortable and positive to engage in the workplace. Reflect on your business practices this International Women’s Day and Inspire Inclusion.

How can Ellis Jones help?

If you require advice or have queries about how to manage menopausal related difficulties in the workplace for your employees, contact our employment law team on 01202 525333 or by email at employment@ellisjones.co.uk.

Additionally, our employment law team offer free health checks of your workplace policies and contracts and can provide in-house equality, diversity and inclusion training.

How can we help?

When you submit this form an email will be sent to the relevant department who will contact you within 48 hours. If you require urgent advice please call 01202 525333.

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