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Menopause in the workplace: how can you best support staff?

An increasing focus in the media and by the government has led to a larger awareness of the menopause, and often the issues women experience in the workplace as a result. We were recently joined by Jennifer Millins, Partner at Mischon de Reya, who shed some light on this timely topic and explored the employment law issues relating to menopause in the workplace and how workplaces can best support staff experiencing it.

More and more women over 50 are remaining in the workforce; employees now more than ever need to ensure they are supporting their employees when experiencing the menopause. It is important that employers seriously consider the support they have in place to ensure they are retaining diverse talent. Moreover, the gender pay gap is significantly impacted due to the lack of diversity in senior roles which is furthered by the result of women’s experiences of menopause at work. However, this is an issue that is well understood and can be adapted to in the workforce.

The impact in the workplace

An eye-opening study conducted by The Women and Equalities Committee found that 69% of women reported anxiety or depression as a symptom. 31% of women said that they had missed work because of their symptoms, with 26% of women refusing to ask for adjustments in the workplace because they were ‘worried about the reaction of others’. The Fawcett Society found that one in ten women who have been working during their experience of menopause have left employment due to their symptoms.

Key legal issues

Employees have a legal responsibility to ensure that effective health and safety policies are in place, including a duty to protect health and wellbeing. Although menopause is not cited in legislation, the courts have seen women present cases of menopause under sex, age and disability discrimination through the Equality Act. However, for women to bring a claim forward they must attempt to shoehorn their claim into one of these three categories which acts as a barrier to seeking compensation for discrimination faced. Moreover, the Fawcett Society recognised that women have concerns that a ‘natural stage in life’ often must be categorised as a disability to bring a claim forward.

Whilst a standalone menopause clause in legislation could resolve some of these issues and make women feel more included, to ensure that a claim is not brought forward under current laws, it is also important that law firms implement effective provisions.

What can be done

Making reasonable adjustments is the easiest way to ensure that women experiencing the menopause feel supported in the workplace. This will remove or reduce the disadvantage faced. Reasonable adjustments include adjusting the temperature in the workplace, adjusting dress codes, and adapting absence policies. Other suggestions include education and training for staff, access to support networks and offering adaptations to the working day including flexible working and regular breaks/shift patterns. Moreover, leading by example by offering specific training for managers and leaders will create a culture change whereby women feel supported.

When looking at the provisions in place, employers can get support through various charities including Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development and the British Menopause Society.

To find out more about menopause in the workplace, you can watch our webinar with Jennifer Millins here.

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