What should employers do to ensure they are supporting their employees who are having issues in the workplace because of the menopause?
Employment tribunals are experiencing an increased number of claims which refer to the menopause, reports confirm that menopause was cited in twice as many cases in the first half of 2021 compared with all of 2018. There is also an increased number of women over the age of 50 that are remaining in the workplace. As a result, employers may need to consider whether their workplace policies support those who are having issues in the workplace because of the menopause.
Who may need to be supported as a result of menopause related problems in the workplace?
Employers should remember that it is not only those who were gender assigned as women at birth that may be affected by the menopause but also those who are transgender or intersex. Employers should also consider that relatives or carers of someone going through the menopause may also be impacted.
What requirements does an employer have to protect their employees?
Employers are required by the Health and Safety at Work Act (1974) to ensure the health, safety and welfare of all workers. If an employer has an employee who is experiencing the menopause, they should consider carrying out a risk assessment to consider the individual’s specific needs including access to water, providing appropriate toilets and avoiding an over-heated workplace.
Employers are prohibited to discriminate on the grounds of sex, directly or indirectly or by harassment by the Equality Act (2010). An example of discrimination on the grounds of sex, linked to menopause could be where an employer fails to consider symptoms caused by the menopause which are impacting on the individual’s performance and where similar symptoms, caused by another medical condition would be considered by the employer during a performance review for a male worker.
Is the menopause deemed to be a disability under the Equality Act?
A recent employment tribunal judgment (2019) found that, although they did not consider experiencing the menopause to be a disability, the menopause may have physiological or physical consequences that meet the definition of disability under the Equality Act.
Employers should consider that the impact, for some employees, of the menopause will be the same or similar to those having a long-term health condition that does require reasonable adjustments.
How should an employer approach discussions regarding the menopause?
Employers should ensure that they deal with this topic sensitively. An open discussion can assist with issues, or difficulties arising in the future and will enable those experiencing the menopause or as a result of a relative or someone they care from, experiencing the menopause to feel they can raise problems with their employer. Fellow workers will also understand and appreciate the impact menopausal symptoms can have on their colleagues.
An employee recently won a case for age and sex harassment after her male manager made public comments about her experiencing the menopause in front of customers. The tribunal found that the employer was tactless in the way in which he dealt with a “highly sensitive topic” and the employee had been humiliated at work.
If you require any advice in respect of this topic or assistance in preparing workplace policies, please contact our Employment Law team today.