How can employers support menopause in the workplace?
How can employers support menopause in the workplace?
As an employer, you will have a range of responsibilities towards your employees, ensuring that their physical and mental wellbeing is taken care of in the workplace.
Given the significant impact it can have on someone’s life, this should extend to supporting anyone who is going through the menopause. Unfortunately, there remain many misconceptions with regards to menopause and the sort of effect it can have on an employee and their ability to carry out their job role.
It is therefore essential that you provide all of the support for employees who are going through the menopause in the workplace. But what exactly should you be doing?
That is what we will be taking a closer look at in the following article. As well as discussing menopause support in the workplace, we will also be discussing what grounds an employee may have to claim menopause discrimination, as well as what their individual menopause rights at work may be.
What are the rights of employees going through the menopause?
Employees who are experiencing the menopause are likely to be covered through various principles of both general employment law and specific Acts of Parliament. It is important to understand what menopause rights at work employees will have before you then make important decisions on how best to support them.
Health and Safety at Work Act 1974
The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 details that, wherever possible and reasonably practical, employers need to ensure the physical and mental safety of their employees.
So, when taking this into consideration, employers must take every step to ensure that any workplace policies that are currently in place do not worsen the experience of a menopausal employee in any way.
While the type of workplace will often dictate the sort of steps that can be taken to prevent a menopausal employee’s workplace experience from being ‘worsened’, common actions will usually include:
- Providing access to cold drinking water
- Providing adequate toilet and bathroom facilities
- Having temperature controls available to employees
- Adjustable uniforms to adapt to workers going through the menopause
Equality Act 2010
Employees going through menopause in the workplace will also have a number of rights under the Equality Act 2010. In the case of sex discrimination and disability discrimination, menopausal employees have made successful Employment Tribunal claims in the past.
Menopausal employees could experience sex discrimination in one of two ways. The first would be where an employee is on the receiving end of jokes or workplace ‘banter’ that is directly related to their menopause. This would amount to harassment, or sexual harassment as per the Equality Act.
The second scenario where someone could be victim to sex discrimination would be if someone suffers a noticeable drop in their performance at work. At employee could claim sex discrimination if their menopausal or peri-menopausal symptoms are not taken as seriously as if a man experiencing similar symptoms which then have an impact on his work.
If the symptoms stemming from the menopause are long-term and have a substantial impact on an employee’s ability to carry out day-to-day activities, then this could amount to a disability.
Where an employee has a disability, it is mandatory for their employer to make as many reasonable adjustments as necessary, or to reduce the effect of the disability on the employee’s ability to carry out their job.
While no successful Employment Tribunal claims have been made in relation to age discrimination, it stands to reason that it could be possible for an employee to do so.
It is clear that employees are protected against unfair treatment due to their age under the Equality Act. Because the menopause primarily affects women in their med-forties to mid-fifties (aside for cases of early menopause), employers should be mindful not to let age considerations impact their decision-making process.
Whenever an employment contract is agreed between an employee and employer, there will be a range of implied terms which are not expressly stated, but are contractually binding for both parties.
Implied terms in this context would include the expectation that an employer will always take action to facilitate an employee’s continued employment with the organisation where it is known that they are suffering with menopausal symptoms.
What are the government recommendations for menopause in the workplace?
Addressing the issue of handling menopause in the workplace is something the government has been discussing for many years. Following a roundtable discussion in 2021 prompted by the Minister for Employment, a report was published which provided ten key recommendations for organisations in order to provide menopause support in the workplace.
- Nominating a person to work on the government’s behalf as a Menopause Ambassador
- Enacting section 14 of the Equality Act to accurately recognise intersectional discrimination claims
- Ensure menopause transitions are a priority issue in policy work on inclusion and diversity
How can you deal with menopause in the workplace?
With the right planning, dealing with menopause in the workplace and providing the right level of support to your employees should not be a complicated process.
To provide effective menopause support in the workplace, it is a good idea to start by providing flexible working opportunities to employees. Depending on the type of workplace and the role your employee conducts, it may be possible for you to provide various flexible working options, such as working from home, part time hours, or a period of unpaid leave.
On this same note, it may also be a sensible idea to offer alternative hours in order to support the employee. This may include offering different start and finish times, as well as providing chances for the employee to attend medical appointments during the standard working day.
It is now the case that employers are increasingly turning to professional training in order to improve the company’s understanding of menopause. This helps to ensure that the right support framework is in place across the board.
Top level staff members, or those with managerial positions, should be provided with menopause training so that they are well equipped in being able to recognise the symptoms of menopause, and to talk about the subject in a sensitive manner.
This also means that employees with menopausal symptoms will be clear on who they can turn to for support, which help to improve their general wellbeing in the workplace.
A menopause policy will detail your company’s approach to supporting employees who are experiencing the menopause, or peri menopause.
The policy should be comprehensive, outlining the support that is available to members of staff who are menopausal, as well as educating the wider company so that they know what they can do to help.
Without having a clear menopause policy in place, you may be running the risk of alienating certain members of staff who may be finding it difficult to cope with their job due to the symptoms they are struggling with.
For more information regarding the application of menopause policies, read our blog on why you need a menopause policy in the workplace here.
Can an employee take time off work for the menopause?
It should be noted that employees are not allowed any specific time off during the menopause in order to cope with their symptoms.
However, it may be possible for a menopausal employee to be considered as having a disability as per the Equality act 2010. Where this is the case, an employer would be obligated to make reasonable adjustments to their accommodate for them – which is some cases may include allowing the employee to work flexibly or to record sickness absence for the menopause separately.
How our employment law solicitors can help
At IBB Law, our expert employment law solicitors can provide expert assistance on a wide range of employment law matters, including support for employees going through the menopause and avoiding menopause discrimination.
We have previously worked with companies a variety of industries, guiding them through their obligations and assisting with the creation of policies that reflect their needs and support their success.
Having bespoke policies in place is often the most effective way to protect your employees’ interests, as well as your own and to avoid any disputes, or the chance of an employment tribunal claim, further down the line.
As a firm, we have been recognised for our employment law expertise by leading client guides the Legal 500 and Chambers & Partners, demonstrating the outstanding reputation we have generated in this area.