Managing The Menopause at Work

Mon 25th Mar 2024

The menopause can have a big impact on the day to day lives of employees. It is a natural part of aging and typically happens to women between the ages of 45 and 55 (although can happen earlier for some women). Menopausal symptoms can last several years and can include:

  • Psychological issues such as mood disturbances, anxiety, depression, memory loss, panic attacks, loss of confidence and reduced concentration;
  • Hot flushes;
  • Sleep disturbance;
  • Night sweats;
  • Irregular periods;
  • Muscle and joint stiffness, aches and pains;
  • Headaches;
  • Weight gain; and
  • Palpitations.

All of these symptoms above can pose a challenge to women experiencing the menopause in both their personal and work lives. Subsequently having a big impact on concentration and relationships with colleagues at work.

For employers, the menopause is a wellbeing and health concern for staff. It must be handled with care, and employers need to be aware of staff experiencing the symptoms and how this might affect their work. Having steps and procedures in place will help tackle menopause related issues in the workplace.

Employers should follow their legal obligations under the Equality Act 2010. Although the menopause is not a protected characteristic, case law has highlighted concerns surrounding making sure women going through the menopause are treated fairly. Employees experiencing menopause who are treated less favourably and put at a disadvantage could result in discrimination, as it could be related to their age, a disability or sex (which are protected characteristics).

Case law has demonstrated that the menopause can be considered to be a disability. In 2022, an employment tribunal, for the first time, had decided that menopause symptoms could amount to a disability. The Equality and Humans Rights Commission issued guidance in February 2024, taking the stance that if menopause symptoms have a long term and significant impact on a woman’s ability to carry out day to day activities, then this may be considered a disability.

Employers should be mindful to considering reasonable adjustments in light of this, as failure to make any such adjustments, if the employee’s menopause symptoms amount to a disability, will amount to disability discrimination. Employers are under a legal obligation not to directly or indirectly discriminate because of the disability, or subject the women to discrimination arising from disability, age or sex.

Things for employers to consider:

  • Relaxing uniform policies;
  • Recording menopause related absences separately;
  • Taking disciplinary action because of menopause related absence could be unlawful discrimination, unless justified;
  • The language used surrounding menopause and symptoms;
  • Having facilities in place for women, including rest rooms and fans;
  • Having a menopause policy in place which outlines support available and how menopause symptoms can be managed in the workplace;
  • Making sure staff at all levels are made aware and trained on the impact of menopause;
  • Carrying out health and safety checks, as per legal requirements.

Reasonable adjustments could include:

  • Being flexible with start and finish times;
  • Allowing breaks when needed;
  • Allowing working from home and time off;
  • Changing duties in their role.

Ensuring a focused and open approach to menopause, and the symptoms experienced by women, can help prevent employers being subject to claims for discrimination, as well as making sure affected staff are happy and supported. 

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Every care is taken in the preparation of our articles. However, no responsibility can be accepted to any person who acts on the basis of information contained in them alone. You are recommended to obtain specific advice in respect of individual cases.