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Company boss working on ways to support women through menopause

WHY COMPANIES NEED TO SUPPORT STAFF GOING THROUGH THE MENOPAUSE - ROTHERAS SOLICITORS

menopause at work rotheras solicitors Oct 15, 2022

World Menopause Day is taking place on Tuesday 18 th October, raising awareness of the menopause and supporting options to improve health and wellbeing in women going through the menopause. In this blog, Rotheras Solicitor’s Employment Law Senior Associate Solicitor, Natalie Abbott discusses how companies can support staff going through the menopause and the importance of them doing so.


75% of women experience symptoms of the menopause, with 25% experiencing serious symptoms. Whilst 51 is the average age most women go through menopause, it can be much earlier.
 


An increased awareness of the impact of menopause and more openness about discussing it, combined with menopausal women being one of the fastest growing demographics in the workplace means an increase in women who will be prepared to enforce their rights at tribunal.


Can workers make a claim for disability because of the menopause?


Employers are often not aware of the risk of a disability claim being made by staff going through the menopause, yet tribunals have found that menopause may well be a potential disability.

There are a multitude of symptoms associated with the menopause. These include both physical symptoms, such as hot flushes, poor sleep and migraines; and psychological symptoms such as anxiety, low mood and low confidence. 

Many women report a significant impact on their ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities, including the ability to sleep or to concentrate, which is perhaps demonstrated by the high number of women who find that menopause can be career-ending.

Where menopause is found to be a disability, it imposes a duty on the employer to make reasonable adjustments, for example allowing an employee to move to a cooler part of the office or providing them with a fan.

However, not all women will experience debilitating symptoms and the figures would suggest that for the majority, symptoms may not be significant enough to constitute a disability, which Section 6 of the Equality Act 2010 defines as: “a physical or mental impairment, and the impairment has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on their ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities”.


Can claims be made for age and sex discrimination?

Where a woman is treated less favourably or put at a disadvantage as a result of the menopause, she may have a viable claim for age and sex discrimination. In Merchant v BT Plc ET/140135/11, the claimant successfully pleaded age and sex discrimination after she was dismissed on performance grounds having suffered stress and a loss of concentration as a result of menopause.

The tribunal didn’t uphold her disability claim, finding that her symptoms were not sufficiently significant, but did find in her favour on age and sex discrimination in so far as the employer would not have addressed a non-female related condition in the same way. Further, the tribunal found her manager was wrong to consider that his wife’s experience of menopause was relevant evidence.

 

What can workplaces do to support staff going through menopause?

Training should be made a priority.  Until relatively recently, the menopause was rather a taboo subject in both the workplace and society as a whole and employers need to be proactive and educate staff. A clear policy on how the employer will support staff with the menopause can also prove invaluable and help both the individual and their manager, giving guidance as to the expectations and steps which the employer can take to provide support. Policies can address how to request reasonable adjustments and how to access support, advice on flexible working and sick leave for menopause symptoms, as well as provision for training on menopause and outline the steps which the employer is taking.

Crucially, “banter” such as comments about “hot flushes” or forgetfulness need to fast become a thing of the past, so that women are supported at work and claims for harassment are avoided.

 

 

For more information on Natalie Abbott visit her website profile: https://rotheras.co.uk/team/natalie-abbott/

Rotheras Employment Law home page: https://rotheras.co.uk/employment-law-for-employers/

Rotheras Twitter page: https://twitter.com/Rotheras

Rotheras LinkedIn page: https://www.linkedin.com/company/456471/

Or contact directly on 0115 9100 600 and email address is [email protected]

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