“Despite the fact that 51% of the population will experience the menopause, the entrenched taboo around women’s health issues, at times underpinned by sexism and ageism, has meant that the support for the 13 million women currently going through the peri-menopause or menopause is completely inadequate”. These are the findings of the All Party Parliamentary Group (“APPG” ) on Menopause in its recently published Report.

Menopause in the workplace was one of the areas that attracted most interest during the inquiry. Evidence shows that women suffering from menopausal symptoms at work find that their ability to do their job is affected, they are less likely to apply for promotion and more likely to leave their employment before retirement.

Menopause often coincides with women reaching the peak of their careers but more than a million women have had to give up work as a result of their symptoms; this exacerbates inequality in senior roles and the gender pay gap. With women over 50 the fastest growing segment of the workforce, most will go through menopause during their working lives.

The Report found that while many employers shared examples of support given to employees, a majority of employers do not regard menopause as a proper health condition and therefore do not have policies in place to support employees going through it.

The Report recommends the Government to co-ordinate and support an employer-led campaign to raise awareness of menopause in the workplace and to help overcome the taboo surrounding menopause at work. It provides that the Government must update and promote guidance for employers on best practice menopause at work policies and supporting interventions. The symptoms of menopause are not limited to hot flushes and occasional forgetfulness: they are wide ranging and can last for years.

Research conducted for the Report found that issues ranged from loss of concentration, brain fog or fatigue, anxiety, embarrassment from unpredictable symptoms such as hot flushes, sweats or bleeding, challenges adjusting to their environment, for example, regulating the temperature, requests for additional support being declined and being unable to take sick leave for symptoms.

The Equality Act 2010 provides that individuals must not be discriminated against on the grounds of a protected characteristic. Whilst it does not specifically cover menopause, there have been some successful employment tribunal claims on the grounds of direct sex discrimination in responses to symptoms. It is easy for employers to be unaware of and neglect to consider their obligations.

Employers who offer examples of best practice in their support of employees include:

Network Rail who have a “reasonable adjustments” policy to help women through the menopause, provide toolkits on menopause for colleagues and offer welfare packs;

PWC have developed a menopause in the workplace toolkit and have a Menopause Matters group consisting of female employees;

Timpsons fund the cost of HRT prescriptions for staff and BMS offer a fast track referral via their occupational health partners free of charge

CIPD (The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development) outlined 4 areas of support that employers should focus on:-

  1. Opening up the culture to provide information and encourage conversations about the menopause among all managers, men and women
  2. Develop a supportive framework such as a specific menopause policy or guidance
  3. Treating an employee with menopause symptoms in the same way as an employee with a long term health condition or absence
  4. Training and educating line managers
    Effective menopause support can help organisations to retain talent, reduce sickness levels, boost productivity and happiness in the workplace and to reduce the risk of employment tribunal claims. If you would like further information or wish to discuss introducing a Menopause Policy or Toolkit please contact us.

For more information on this or any employment law issue, call the experts at Premier Legal on 0115 856 1625.