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By LegalEdge News

(Meno)pause for thought: does your workplace need a policy? 


What’s all the fuss about the menopause?

You might have noticed there’s been a lot of talk about the menopause lately – in the media, by celebrities and even from the government. 

Traditionally this was a taboo “woman’s issue”. But, in the last few years there has been an effort to increase understanding of the subject through talking about it more openly.

Menopause is a natural, biological process during which a woman’s hormone levels drop and she eventually stops menstruating. Most women will experience it at some time between the ages of 45 and 55 (although it can be earlier or later due to illness, surgery or other reasons). 

Menopause can cause a range of physical and psychological symptoms such as anxiety, mood swings, brain fog, difficulty sleeping, difficulty concentrating and hot flushes. Not all women will experience all (or any) symptoms.

Health is a private matter, why should your company care about this? 

There are various reasons why you need to be aware of this issue:

  • As between 75% and 80% of menopausal women are in work, there is a good chance you will have staff who are affected by the menopause at some point.
  • Although not all women will experience symptoms, for those that do, it can be unpleasant, and in many cases have a severe impact on day-to-day life. The right support in the workplace can not only help improve the experience for the individual but also cut absence levels.
  • Under health and safety laws, employers must conduct risk assessments (and put in place measures to mitigate risks identified) to ensure the welfare of all staff, including those experiencing the menopause.  
  • There are other legal risks for employers who fail to recognise and deal appropriately with staff experiencing menopause symptoms including age, sex and disability discrimination and harassment. 
  • In some circumstances, menopause symptoms can qualify as a “disability” which requires employers to make reasonable adjustments to help mitigate the effects of those symptoms. 
  • A recent case in the employment tribunal in Scotland shows how getting things wrong could also lead to claims for unfair dismissal. In that case a teacher whose menopause symptoms worsened during a dispute with her headteacher about moving schools was awarded £60,000 for unfair dismissal and disability discrimination.

What’s the answer?

A good starting point is putting in place a menopause policy for your workplace. This will help to inform managers about the potential symptoms of menopause, and how they can support those suffering at work. 

By ensuring everyone understands what menopause is and how they can have good conversations about it, those suffering with menopause symptoms will feel confident asking for support and businesses can reduce the risk of legal claims and reduce absenteeism.

However, simply writing a policy is not enough, it needs to be communicated effectively and followed up with training – so that everyone understands what it means.

Where can I get more information?

The most recent official guidance came in February this year from the Equality and Human Rights Commission.  See Menopause in the workplace: Guidance for employers

The CIPD published guidance in October 2023. See Menopause at work: Guide for people managers.

ACAS also has various resources looking at menopause at work. See Menopause and the law.

How can we help?

Talk to us if you are thinking about introducing a menopause policy for your workplace or want to review and update what you already have. We can also provide training for managers who need to be aware of this issue and how to deal with it in the workplace. Contact us on info@legaledge.co.uk

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