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29th Apr, 2024

Helen Clark
Helen Clark
Job Title
Divisional Managing Director

At some point in their life, the 34 million women who make up the population of the UK, will go through the menopause. And with 10% of women leaving their jobs because of the menopause, that has the potential to hit organisations hard if they don’t look after their employees going through the transition correctly. 

Don’t get me wrong, some women transition extremely smoothly without any major effects, but others suffer some of the most extreme symptoms which can have a massive impact on their personal and professional lives. 

Every woman’s experience is different, and that’s why managers in the workplace need to educate themselves and be aware of the signs, signals, and symptoms, enabling them to help employees through what can be a ‘challenging’ life stage. 

New Equality and Human Rights Commission menopause guidance  

Research conducted by Reed, as part of a campaign supported by The Menopause Charity last year, revealed of 1,000 women experiencing menopause in the workplace, 74% said their employer didn’t have a menopause policy, or were unsure if they had a menopause policy in place. This figure alarmingly highlights the lack of education in many UK companies around the perimenopause and menopause, and demonstrates just how much employers still need to do to instil confidence and support their workers to help attract and retain talent. 

At the end of February this year, the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) published new, extremely welcomed guidance on menopause at work. The advice, ‘Menopause in the workplace: guidance for employees’, has been produced to help employers further understand their legal obligations under the Equality Act 2010, and gives some advice as to how employers can support employees. 

I must echo the comments of Baroness Kishwer Falkner, Chairwoman of the EHRC. At the time of the launch of the guidance, she said: “An employer understanding their legal duties is the foundation of equality in the workplace.”  

The guidance was published on the back of the government’s July 2022 response to the independent report it commissioned on ‘menopause and employment’. And while the original policy paper dismissed the need for the menopause to become a protected characteristic under the Equality Act, the new guidance certainly should be embraced with open arms.  

Employers’ legal obligations when it comes to menopause 

As previously mentioned, menopause is not a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010, however, the protected characteristics including age, sex and disability are. Therefore, employees going through the menopause are protected from discrimination based on those characteristics. 

In cases where perimenopause or menopause symptoms significantly impede a woman's ability to perform daily tasks over an extended period, they could qualify as a disability. In cases like this, employers are legally required to implement reasonable adjustments to support affected employees. These accommodations ensure women experiencing menopause-related challenges are not disadvantaged in the workplace due to their condition.  

On top of this, it’s really important employers refrain from any form of discrimination, whether direct or indirect, based on the presence of the severe menopause symptoms. 
Additionally, as pointed out by the EHRC in their report, women going through the change are protected from various forms of discrimination, including direct and indirect bias, harassment, and victimisation, based on the protected characteristics of age and sex. This legal protection aims to safeguard women from experiencing adverse treatment or unfair practices because of their age-related physiological changes and their gender. 
Under health and safety regulations, all employers have the obligation to assess workplace risks, including those related to the health and wellbeing of employees experiencing menopause symptoms. This assessment ensures appropriate measures are in place to mitigate any potential hazards or challenges that could exacerbate menopause-related difficulties for affected individuals. By conducting thorough evaluations and implementing necessary adjustments, employers demonstrate their commitment to creating a supportive and inclusive work environment for all employees.  

How can employers support perimenopausal and menopausal employees? 

Organisation leaders need to ensure they are proactively encouraging a workplace environment where everyone feels empowered to talk about it. The key to this is ensuring your company is visibly making space for conversations about menopause in the workplace and removing any stigma attached to the topic.  

Every organisation needs to ensure its managers are educated enough on the topics of perimenopause and menopause, and know what resources they have available to them to support their teams. 

Not every workplace will have the ability to provide workers with everything they need, but what matters is that they are aware and willing to support everyone – they are inclusive and committed to change. 

You may want to consider offering all or just a few of the following to your employees, however, remember every person is different, so ask them what suits them and what they think they need: 

• Access to cool areas/desk fans 

• Change of uniform, if applicable – consider providing uniforms in breathable fabrics 

• Prioritise hotdesking areas with proximity to toilets for those who need it 

• Provide access to a wellbeing room/private recovery area, separate from the toilets 

• Access to showers/washrooms 

• Free/subsidised period products 

• Allow flexible working 

For more information on supporting your employees through the menopause, download Reed’s eBook ‘Menopause: supporting your employees’, created in association with The Menopause Charity and balance by Newton Health. 

The consequences of inaction 

The consequences of providing inadequate support to employees experiencing the menopause can be detrimental not only to those employees, but to the organisation as a whole. 

Employees experiencing menopausal symptoms can sometimes struggle to concentrate, they may also be anxious, or extremely tired because of a lack of sleep. If not supported properly, this can lead to a drop in employee productivity as well as absences from work. Menopause-related anxiety, stress and depression can also be a prominent symptom and a lack of employer support may exacerbate this. 

Overall, if you fail to address menopause-related issues, without being too blunt, your workforce is at risk of leaving – and that means valuable skills, knowledge and experience walking out the door. Failure to make ‘reasonable adjustments’, or treat employees unfavourably, could result in legal claims. It’s also vital for your company’s reputation and success that you support menopausal employees’ wellbeing to create a healthier, more productive workforce.  

Being menopause-inclusive will ensure you can attract and retain talent and significantly contribute to a stand-out employee value proposition.

If you’re looking for guidance on your menopause policy then our editable template can shape change throughout your business. Download it here.

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