Tayla Baird

Trainee Solicitor

DATE PUBLISHED: 07 Jun 2024 LAST UPDATED: 07 Jun 2024

Menopause in the workplace : Discrimination

How does menopause relate to the law?

Although menopause is not itself covered within legislation, symptoms of the menopause are covered under both Equality legislation and Health and Safety legislation, specifically:

What amounts to discrimination?

Discrimination is the less favourable treatment of an individual or group of people due to a protected characteristic. Protected characteristics include, age, sex and disability, among others. Less favourable treatment is anything that puts someone with a protected characteristic at a disadvantage, in comparison to someone who does not have that characteristic, and there is no requirement for the less favourable treatment to be intended.

There are four types of discrimination:

  • Direct discrimination– less favourable treatment directly due to a protected characteristic.
  • Indirect discrimination– when the employer has a practice, criteria or provision that it applies to a group of employees but those with a protected characteristic are put at a disadvantage.
  • Harassment– unwanted or offensive behaviour related to a protected characteristic.
  • Victimisation– negative treatment as a result of making a discrimination or harassment complaint.

Is menopause a protected characteristic?

If the menopause symptoms have a long term and substantial impact on someone’s ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities, these symptoms could be considered a disability.

The menopause is not a specific protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010. However, if an employee is disadvantaged and treated less favourably due to the symptoms they suffer as a result of the menopause, this could amount to discrimination, so long as it relates to a protected characteristic.

If menopause symptoms amount to a disability, an employer will be under a legal obligation to make reasonable adjustments.

Individuals experiencing menopause symptoms may also be protected from direct and indirect discrimination, as well as harassment and victimisation, on the grounds of age and sex.

What should employers do?

There are a number of steps that employers should take in order to avoid employees raising grievances and/ or discrimination claims. We highly recommend that you:

  • Facilitate and encourage – it is important that the menopause is spoken about, and for there to be open conversations amongst all employees on the subject.
  • Educate – all employees should be educated and continue to be educated by way of regular training sessions. Employees should also be educating themselves.
  • Awareness – employers should be raising awareness through communications with staff. Note: world menopause day is 18 October 2024, and this is a great opportunity for you to really raise awareness on the topic.
  • Policy – companies should have a written policy that is readily available and accessible to all.
  • Appoint – appointing menopause or wellbeing champions.
  • Adjustments – consider adjusting working practices e.g. to incorporate regular breaks, working from home, rest place; or physical environment e.g. location of a desk near a window, or providing a desk fan.

How can Ellis Jones help?

Now is the time we really need to act and be proactively championing the cause in the workplace, so that we can drive that meaningful change in gender equality conversation.

At Ellis Jones, we have a network of HR professionals and business owners who we support by providing employment law and HR advice. We run a free, monthly HR Forum in partnership with Rubicon Recruitment, so if you are a business owner or have responsibility for HR please do get in touch to join our forum. You can also call us on 01202 525333 or email at employment@ellisjones.co.uk.

In our recent HR Forum, we were lucky enough to have special guest, Silvana Greenfield, educating our network of HR professionals on the importance of opening conversations and providing training on the menopause. Silvana is an expert in providing training to employers of all sizes. We were also joined by Lela Brooke who is a specialist menopause coach that can provide executive coaching sessions for individuals in relation to menopause.

Alternatively, if you are an employee, and feel as though you have suffered from discrimination relating to menopause, then please do get in touch using the details noted above.

 

About the authors

Kate Brooks

Kate is a Partner, Solicitor and Head of our Employment/HR Law department. Kate also hosts, alongside Rubicon Recruitment, free monthly HR Forums for HR professionals and can provide free contract and handbook health checks, bespoke HR retainers and any equality and diversity training whether this be remote, in person or recorded.

Tayla Baird

Tayla is a Trainee Solicitor based in our London office and is currently in her second seat in the Employment/HR Law team following her first seat in Banking & Finance Litigation.

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