Menopause tribunals are rising: what should you be doing?

Kate Palmer - HR Advice and Consultancy Director

September 07 2021

Imagine if your employee always overslept or forgot major tasks. After a while, you’d probably give them a warning…

But if your worker’s poor performance was menopause-related, that would amount to discrimination.

It’s why menopause tribunals have doubled in three years. And it’s also why you need to create a menopause-savvy workplace…

What does the law say?

In 2012, an employer sacked a worker for poor concentration. Despite a letter from the employee’s doctor, the manager didn’t take menopause into account.

As a result, the employee was one of the first women to bring the matter to court…

The tribunal found the manager would have used a fairer approach for “non-female” issues. Which meant the employer was guilty of unfair dismissal and sex discrimination – which both lead to hefty pay-outs.

And beyond that, there’s also disability to consider. Because while menopause isn’t a disability in itself, it can be if:

  • It has a ‘substantial’ effect on the woman’s ability to do daily activities, and
  • This lasts for 12 months or longer.

So, you should do all you can to support menopausal staff. Otherwise, you could be liable for sex and disability discrimination…

First, break the taboo

Women with severe menopause symptoms often struggle at work.

In fact, one in four menopausal women consider quitting their job. And when staff keep their symptoms to themselves, you can’t do anything to support them to stay in work.

So, to encourage staff to speak out, break the taboo about menopause.

Make it clear you’ll be there to listen to any staff who are struggling. By being upfront, you give staff more confidence to ask for support when they need it.

Educate your team

If there’s a lack of menopause awareness in your workplace, take steps to sort it.

Because if managers don’t handle menopause with respect, it could leave staff feeling angry or isolated. And then you risk dealing with a high turnover or grievances…

Here’s how you can boost awareness in your team:

  • Watch e-learning videos
  • Arrange menopause training workshops for management
  • Share advice from trusted sources, like the NHS website

Rethink your policies

Your existing policies might make life more difficult for menopausal women.

Because while they might suit the majority of your staff, they might work against women with severe symptoms…   

Flexible working policy – Menopause symptoms can disturb sleep. Flexible shift times would allow your staff to start work once they’ve caught up on rest.

Sickness policy – Formulas like the Bradford Factor assign a negative score to staff who regularly take short absences – but make allowances for long-term illness.

This could unfairly punish women who suffer symptoms over a long-term basis. That’s why you should treat menopause like an ongoing health condition.

Performance policyit’s important to consider menopause symptoms when you carry out performance reviews.

Without a flexible approach, you could be disciplining women for natural symptoms – like a low mood or memory loss. 

Learn to handle sensitive conversations

According to ACAS, managers should know how to talk to staff about menopause.

First, you need to find a private and quiet area. Remember to reassure your worker that your chat is confidential – and remain relaxed and positive.

Plus, make sure you avoid asking staff outright about menopause. This would invade your employee’s privacy and may seem offensive. Instead, stick to general questions like “How are you doing?”.

You could choose a dedicated staff member to handle menopause matters – so if employees feel uncomfortable raising the topic with their manager, they have an alternative.  

Review your workplace environment

Does your workplace help reduce tough menopause symptoms?  

Try to make changes around your premises to ease any discomfort. Not only will this boost morale, but it could improve your employees focus.  

To tackle symptoms like hot flushes, here’s how you could adjust your workplace…

  • Add fans and air conditioning.
  • Supply cold drinking water.
  • Make sure any bathroom facilities are easy to access.
  • Check whether uniforms are breathable, light, and kind to the skin.

Remember to include these adjustments in your risk assessment.

Consider a menopause policy

A specific policy shows staff that you treat menopause seriously.

Which means staff are more likely to reach out for help when they need it. And that means a happier workforce, a healthier turnover, and a lower legal risk.  

A good menopause policy should cover:

  • Who staff can speak to if they need support.
  • How managers should support staff with menopause.
  • What all staff can do to create a supportive environment.
  • Whether you provide access to healthcare or counselling.

So, is your workplace menopause-friendly?

Without costly training courses and research, it’s hard to tell.

Luckily, Peninsula is here to give you:

  • Expert policies, written for you – get watertight guidance to create a fairer workplace.
  • Unlimited employment law advice – handle sensitive conversations fairly and in line with the law.
  • Access to an EAP – let professional counsellors support your staff, while you get on with business.
  • Legal protection – reduce your legal risk and cover yourself against claims.

So not only do you create a happier workforce, but you free yourself from the risk of tribunal claims.

Ready to create a fairer workplace? Discover unlimited HR support today.

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