How to be a menopause friendly employer

Menopause friendly employer
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Peninsula Team, Peninsula Team

(Last updated )

As October is menopause awareness month it is a great time to review the support that you provide your employees and consider whether there is anything further that you can do.

According to the Fawcett Society 2022, 44% of those surveyed said that their ability to do their job has been affected by menopause symptoms and 41% reported that colleagues treated menopause or menopause symptoms as a joke. With one in ten employees saying that they have had to go so far as to leave their job because of menopause symptoms, it is important that employers take steps to prevent this from happening in their workplace.

There are also important legal ramifications if an employer fails to provide necessary support. Whilst menopause is not a protected characteristic, an employment tribunal could find that the effect of the menopause is such that it satisfies the definition of a disability under the Equality Act 2010. Where this applies, employers then have a legal obligation to make reasonable adjustments to premises or working practices.

So, what should an employer do?

An open, inclusive environment where employees feel they can raise concerns about how the menopause is affecting them with no stigma or embarrassment attached is the first step. But what support and adjustments an employee specifically needs will depend on the individual themselves. Menopause, and perimenopause, affect everyone in different ways so designing some support that is individual for the employee is advisable. Employers should therefore discuss circumstances on an individual basis with their employee and consider what reasonable adjustments can be made to the workplace. These could include ensuring that there is fresh air or temperature-controlled spaces, comfortable desk seating, a private room or space with less distractions.

These, however, are not the only types of reasonable adjustments to consider.

Where an employee is under performing and it could be linked to symptoms of the menopause, a reasonable adjustment could be to not take the employee through a performance management process. Instead, to look at ways support could be given.

A recent Employment Tribunal case, Lynskey v Direct Line, illustrates these points. A claimant was subject to a disciplinary process because of alleged poor performance, and this also led to her being refused a pay rise. There was, however, a clear link with the claimant’s menopause symptoms which included ‘brain fog’, concentration issues and memory problems. The tribunal found that there was no consideration of the impact that the menopause was having on her performance and few adjustments were made to support her in the workplace. The claimant was successful in her claim for failure to make reasonable adjustments and was awarded £64,645.07.

Training managers on how to handle such matters sensitively can also be a good step to take. Having a menopause champion within the organisation might also be a way to promote an inclusive environment. In addition, a menopause policy could be key to demonstrate to your employees that you are prepared to be able to offer them support which is individual to their specific needs.

Figures released by the Office for National Statistics show that the employment rate for women aged 50 to 64 has increased from 46.9% in 1992 to 66.3% in 2023. There are, therefore, more people than ever experiencing the menopause in the workplace, so employers need to ensure that they appropriately support employees.

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