Why You Need a Menopause Policy in the Workplace
Why You Need a Menopause Policy in the Workplace
A menopause policy isn’t a mandatory legal requirement for employers, which leaves some business leaders wondering why they might need one. The truth is, failing to put a menopause policy in place can have many negative repercussions, not just for employees, but for employers and their companies.
Unfortunately, many women going through the menopause face an absence of support from their employers. Traditionally, there’s been a lack of sensitivity and consideration surrounding this aspect of women’s health and how it can impact an individual’s experience in the workplace.
Over the last several years, it’s clear that gender-focused wellbeing and health is becoming a higher priority for companies. Those businesses that fail to make such considerations are likely to experience practical setbacks, as well as potentially compromising the health of their female employees.
In this article we will explore the topic of menopause policies in the workplace, including why you should create a menopause policy, what to include in that policy, along with other key information and considerations for employers.
What is a menopause policy?
In simple terms, a menopause policy means a workplace policy that outlines a company’s approach when employees are experiencing the menopause or perimenopause.
The policy should cover the experience of female, non-binary and trans members of staff. The document should detail the kind of support staff members will receive when going through the menopause, as well as aiming to educate the wider company about the menopause, so that they can understand and support others.
Why do you need a menopause policy in your business?
There is some lack of understanding and awareness about the menopause and a clear policy can help to raise awareness, as well as offering a support strategy in the workplace.
For context, the menopause refers to a natural part of the aging process, usually occurring when an individual is between 45-55 years old. During this time, the person’s oestrogen levels start to decline and their menstrual cycle ends. When that individual has not had a period for at least 1 year, the menopause is diagnosed.
In the time leading up to the menopause, the person may begin to have side effects, referred to as perimenopause. As well as this, an individual can also experience post menopause side effects.
One of the main reasons why it’s so essential to have a menopause policy is because the symptoms of the menopause can be wide ranging and often severe. These include both psychological and physical symptoms which can drastically impact an individual’s life, including their work life and so employers are advised to consider it.
Symptoms pre, during and post menopause include:
- Night sweats and insomnia
- Dizziness and hot flushes
- Hair loss and skin irritation
- Vaginal discomfort and dryness
- Regular urinary infections
- Breathlessness and palpitations
- Heavy bleeding and irregular periods
- Muscle aches and stiffness
- Painful periods
- Slowed metabolism and weight gain
- Panic attacks and anxiety
These are just a few of the possible symptoms, every person experiences the menopause differently and, for some, the symptoms can be debilitating.
Without a clear menopause at work policy, businesses risk alienating members of staff who are struggling to perform their roles due to menopause-related symptoms.
Why does your business need a menopause policy?
Though it is not a legal requirement to have a menopause policy in the workplace, not having one can have a negative impact in many different ways.
Unless you have a menopause workplace policy, you may be inadvertently failing to consider and support the health and well-being of your female employees.
In some circumstances, this could even amount to a gender-based discrimination matter. For example, employees may feel forced to resign because they are unable to perform their role due to menopause-related symptoms and have received no support. In this case, employers could end up facing expensive constructive dismissal claims.
The absence of a menopause policy could lead to reduced engagement as well as lower performance and productivity. Other potential issues include negative employee-employer relationships, unauthorised sick days and low morale.
Acas provide information on menopause at work which employers may well find useful. According to their guidance, it’s important to create an open and positive environment to help those going through menopause-related symptoms.
They assert that unless companies draft this policy, there are several risks which include:
- Employees may lose confidence in their abilities and skills
- Staff members may take time off work (without sharing the real reason for doing so)
- Employees may experience increased risk of depression, stress and anxiety
- Valuable team members may leave the company
- Without a clear policy there is more risk of employees facing discrimination due to menopause-related symptoms
How to write a menopause policy
When you are writing a workplace menopause policy, the following guidelines may come in handy:
- Include a definition that describes what the menopause is and what the symptoms involve, to ensure that all staff members are clear on this
- State what the intention of the policy is, for instance, prioritising the well-being and health of staff who are experiencing menopause symptoms
- Detail the policy aims, for example, making certain that the business as a whole understands the menopause and ensuring that employees who are experiencing these symptoms have support
- Detail the law that’s relevant, for instance, equality, discrimination, health and safety. These laws can be used to discuss the treatment employees should receive at work
- Information about the specific types of support that is available for employees experiencing menopause-related symptoms, for example, what adjustments you can make in the workplace
- Information about who employees can talk to in order to receive support or details of third-party organisations (based on the assumption that not all employees will feel comfortable talking to colleagues)
Preventing discrimination and associated claims
With a structured menopause policy in place, employers can prevent discrimination in the workplace, as well as avoiding the risk of discrimination-based claims.
A menopause policy can serve to educate staff members, for instance, on discrimination risks, where people are treated less favourably in the workplace due to menopause symptoms.
If you are concerned about discrimination or need assistance to draft a menopause policy in the workplace, please get in touch with our solicitors at IBB Law.
What are the government recommendations on menopause and the workplace?
Back in July 2021, the Minister for Employment requested a reflection on menopause, asking the Roundtable on older workers to consider how the menopause can impact women’s work lives.
A report was later published which offered ten recommendations regarding change and support for those experiencing menopause symptoms. A few of the key recommendations included:
- Nominate a person to work on the government’s behalf to represent those people experiencing the menopause (known as a Menopause Ambassador).
- Enact section 14 of the Equality Act to ensure that intersectional discrimination claims are correctly recognised.
- Ensuring that menopause transitions are a priority issue in policy work on inclusion and diversity.
How does the menopause relate to employment rights?
Under the Equality Act 2010, individuals cannot be discriminated against due to certain protected characteristics.
The menopause is not currently one of those protected characteristics. Regardless, individuals are protected from discrimination based on sex and age, both factors which are linked to the menopause.
The menopause is experienced by those of a certain age and sex and therefore, any discrimination here could be met with discrimination claims. Where menopausal symptoms are severe, this could be viewed as a form of disability. Consequently, employers could be viewed to be discriminating against staff members where they do not make the appropriate reasonable adjustments to support their symptoms.
To learn more about employment law for employers, our solicitors at IBB Law can support you.
Why is the menopause a workplace issue?
The menopause is a workplace issue because it affects the wellbeing and health of staff. It’s essential that employers are educated on the menopause and its symptoms. With increased awareness, businesses can support employees to maintain their confidence and efficiency at work and prioritise their wellbeing at the same time.
The menopause is experienced by women and people who menstruate; however, everyone should be included in any training and conversations. Those who will not experience the menopause can still benefit from this knowledge, allowing them to support those who do and promoting inclusivity in the workplace.
Employers who prioritise a menopause policy in the workplace will ensure that they protect the health and wellbeing of their staff, as well as their business interests.
How can IBB Law help
At IBB Law, our Employment Law team can provide expert assistance on drafting employment documents, such as workplace menopause policies.
We have worked with a diverse range of companies, assisting them to create policies that reflect their needs and support their success. Having the right policies in place is the best way to protect your employees’ interests, as well as your own, avoiding disputes and the chance of an employment tribunal claim.