October is World Menopause Month and for the first time, a woman who has allegedly been discriminated against due to suffering menopause symptoms will be heard by the employment tribunal in the UK. She will be alleging that her menopause symptoms amount to a disability under the Equality Act.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission chair Baroness Falkner has said that employers "have a responsibility to support employees going through the menopause – it is to their benefit to do so, and the benefit of the wider workforce."
Claire Tait and Megan Huws from our employment team provide advice on how employers should deal with these situations and avoid any claims of discrimination.
Menopause affects 51% of the population and three in five menopausal women are negatively affected at work. BUPA found that almost 900,000 women in the UK have left their jobs because of menopausal symptoms, so it can be highly stressful for those affected.
Maria Rooney, a children’s social worker, took sickness leave from her job at Leicester City Council due to her symptoms. She claimed that after returning, the council failed to consider the reasons for her absence or for any adjustments to be made so she could continue working. In 2018, she resigned due to unfavourable treatment and discrimination which she alleges was constructive dismissal. She will be the first in the UK to bring a tribunal case to consider the symptoms as a disability. The results will be pivotal for UK Employment law.
ACAS states that anyone put at a disadvantage or treated less favourably because of their menopause symptoms can make a discrimination claim if it is connected to a protected characteristic which amounts to a disability under the Equality Act.
Managing the effects of menopause at work is important for both employers and their staff, and talented and experienced women should not have to leave their workforce because of their symptoms, so what should you do to support women in your workplace?
You must consider the duty of care that the organisation owes its employees, and the general well-being of staff, and handle situations with sensitivity. To create a workplace where women are supported and to avoid the risk of discrimination, an employer can:
If you are faced with a menopause-related employment issue or grievance, our team of experienced independent and impartial employment investigators can help. Please call us for an initial chat on 0808 196 3151 or learn more here.