Are menopause policies a legal requirement? - The Stratford Observer

Are menopause policies a legal requirement?

Stratford Editorial 8th Mar, 2024   0

Are menopause policies a legal requirement?

In a bid to clarify employers’ legal obligations, the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has published guidance on menopause in the workplace. Damian Kelly, head of the Employment Law team at Lodders, provides an overview of the guidance and shares why employers should consider implementing menopause policies.

Current legal requirements

In a recent research report, CIPD surveyed over 2,000 women and found that one in twelve women who have worked during menopause have left their jobs due to symptoms, while two thirds of working women between the ages of 40 and 60 with experience of menopausal symptoms said they have had a mostly negative impact on them at work.

At present, menopause is not specifically protected under the Equality Act 2010 (Act), though in recent years there has been widespread debate over whether this should be the case. The Women and Equalities Committee’s report on menopause and the workplace, published in 2022, recommended that menopause should be made a “protected characteristic” under the Act. This would mean a woman could not be discriminated against because of her menopausal symptoms.

But in May 2023, the government rejected this recommendation; it stated that, while it supports the aim of ensuring that women are not discriminated against because of menopause, existing protected characteristics of sex, age and disability already provide this protection.

In a recent Tribunal case, a menopausal employee was successful with her claim for disability discrimination. She was awarded £64,645 against her employer, Direct Line. The Tribunal found that the company had failed to make reasonable adjustments for her menopausal symptoms and that the employee was subjected to less favourable treatment as a result of her disability.

New guidance from EHRC

In a bid to clarify employers’ legal obligations, the EHRC has published guidance in relation to menopause in the workplace.

As well as setting out employers’ legal obligations under the Equality Act 2010, the EHRC’s guidance offers practical tips on making reasonable adjustments and fostering positive conversations about menopause in the workplace.

To mitigate the impact of menopause on women at work, it encourages employers to have conversations about menopause and to create a culture where workers feel able to talk about their symptoms and ask for adjustments to their work.

Some examples of the measures it proposes include:

  • Allowing staff to work from home where possible
  • Varying staff shift patterns
  • Providing rest areas and quiet rooms
  • Relaxing uniform policies
  • Allowing employees to wear cooler clothing
  • Introducing cooling systems or fans for women experiencing hot flushes

You can read the ERHC’s guidance in full here.

Menopause policies at work: what to include?

While there is no legal obligation to have one, it is advisable that organisations put a menopause policy in place, so employees know where they stand.

A menopause policy should:

  • Set out your organisation’s approach towards employees who are handling menopausal symptoms.
  • Set out how employees can raise issues relating to menopause in the workplace and how the organisation will handle these issues when raised.
  • Include details of the support that you will make available to employees.

A suitable policy will also provide you with important protection against claims such as unfair dismissal and unlawful discrimination.

Experts in employment law

Lodders offers the full breadth of employment law advice and support, from drafting contracts and policies to expert support with Tribunal claims and negotiating settlements. For advice on drafting a menopause policy for your organisation, please get in touch: E: [email protected], T: 01789 339110.

Lodders is a premier law firm in Stratford upon Avon, Cheltenham, Henley in Arden, and Birmingham. Founded more 240 years ago, the firm offers expert legal advice across a range of legal services including private client, commercial law, real estate, and family law.

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