With the rate of employment among women over the age of 50 ever-increasing, employers must ensure that they’re aware of both the legal and non-legal consequences of ignoring or failing to effectively deal with the transition and associated symptoms of the menopause.
The menopause usually occurs between the ages of 45 and 55. Symptoms can vary between individuals, but often have a significant and detrimental impact on a woman’s day-to-day life. According to the NHS website, common symptoms include:
In addition to the legal consequences outlined below, employers risk losing talent and skills as a result of women leaving their current position because they don’t feel supported enough.
An employer has a duty to protect the health and wellbeing of its workforce and must not behave in a way which may undermine the implied duty of trust and confidence.
So far in the UK, only two cases have been brought in relation to the menopause. In both cases, the tribunal held in favour of the claimants – one successfully claimed direct sex discrimination, and the other, disability related discrimination. While unbinding, these cases are a reminder to employers to set and follow procedures to avoid potential claims.
Other types of claims which could potentially arise include:
The impact of the menopause in the workplace is very much in public focus, as MPs are calling for new legal protections, including statutory rights to seek flexible working and time off as a result of its symptoms. Employers can no longer ignore what is seen by some as a last taboo.
Employers should effectively:
In October last year, ACAS published a guide – menopause at work – suggesting how employers and employees should handle menopause-related issues in the workplace.
In particular, the guide recommended that employers should have menopause policies setting out how staff can raise issues and how employers can handle them.
The policies aim to demonstrate that employers are committed to having constructive, open, and honest conversations with staff and signpost support available.