Managing the change: menopause and the workplace
September 7, 2022
With pressure mounting on the Government to increase support around menopause in the workplace, Lisa Kelly, partner in the employment team at leading independent law firm for business Muckle LLP, talks about how it is helping organisations break the taboo and make positive changes for the wellbeing of staff.
The ‘change’, as it was called in my house growing up, was not something we talked about.
I vividly recall my mother sweating profusely and having palpitations, but when I asked if she was ok, she would wave me away with embarrassment.
Thankfully, there is now an increased awareness about menopause, but the stigma still exists, particularly among certain groups in society.
Overhauling menopause workplace support
The Government previously confirmed it did not intend to make any changes to the Equality Act 2010 (EqA), in relation to menopause.
Currently, menopause is not a protected characteristic in its own right, meaning discrimination claims are shoehorned under sex, age or disability.
However, there is mounting pressure for change.
The House of Commons’ Women and Equalities Committee recently published a report, titled Menopause and the workplace, which highlighted 51 per cent of the population will experience menopause, and that women over 50 were the fastest-growing group in the workforce based on pre-pandemic research.
Despite this, there is little support for menopause symptoms at work. The report remarks that evidence to the inquiry highlighted women in this age group are “highly skilled and experienced, typically at the peak of their careers”, and are “role models for younger workers”.
Yet, many of these women feel “forced to leave work because of menopausal symptoms”.
This has an adverse knock-on effect on the gender pay gap, the pension gap and the number of women in senior leadership positions.
The findings are consistent with a survey conducted by BUPA and the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development in 2019, which identified three in five menopausal women were negatively affected at work, and nearly 900,000 women in the UK left their jobs because of menopausal symptoms.
The report calls again on the Government to amend the EqA to allow dual discrimination claims based on more than one protected characteristic, and to consult on making menopause a protected characteristic.
What can employers do to break the taboo?
The report encourages employers to discuss menopause as a health issue more openly.
Practical support can include having books on menopause, setting up menopause cafes and delivering training sessions. The report also suggests it can be helpful to have specific workplace policies, or amend existing sickness and flexible working policies to include guidance about menopause.
Crucially, employers need to make it clear how employees will be supported.
We can help
Getting ahead of the game and making positive changes for the wellbeing of your staff is a great first step.
And reviewing and amending your policies doesn’t have to be a daunting task; our employment experts are here to help. We will be tackling the issue of menopause in the workplace as part of our upcoming employment roadshows.
This year’s events will take place in Carlisle, Newcastle and Teesside, where the topic will be ‘Managing employees with certainty in an increasingly flexible world’.
To find out more about Muckle LLP’s employment roadshows, and to sign up for attendance, visit www.muckle-llp.com/events/
To contact Lisa, email [email protected] or call 0191 211 7897.