Menopause Discrimination at Work
What is the menopause?
Menopause is when a woman’s periods stop. This is usually due to a reduction in hormone levels. The menopause usually occurs between 45 and 55 years of age but can also take place earlier. The menopause can also affect trans people and anyone who has periods.
Menopause can happen naturally or for surgical or medical reasons, which can include genetic reasons, chemotherapy and other cancer treatments, or hysterectomy (a surgical procedure to remove the uterus).
There are 3 stages to going through the menopause:
Every woman experiences the menopause differently – for some women, it can be relatively unproblematic. But for others it can cause physical and mental difficulties as well as a number of associated symptoms.
These symptoms may include depression, anxiety, difficulty concentrating, insomnia and tiredness, cramps and muscle weakness, headaches, night sweats and hot flashes.
It is important that employers support staff who are going through the menopause in the workplace.
Menopause Discrimination and the Equality Act (2010).
There is no specific employment law legislation in the Equality Act that covers menopause. However, many of the symptoms of menopause are likely to fit the legal definition of disability under the Equality Act, which defines a disability as a physical or mental impairment which has a long term (likely to last for over a year) substantially adverse effect on day-to-day activities.
Although HRT is often prescribed to people going through the menopause, the test for disability would look at the relevant effect were the person not taking HRT.
Employers have a duty to make reasonable adjustments to employees who have a disability. If they do not, they could potentially be discriminating against their employee on the grounds of disability.
Employees going through the menopause could also be discriminated against because of a symptom that arises from the menopause – for example, if an employer was dismissed due to performance issues caused by insomnia or anxiety that arises from the menopause. This is known as ‘discrimination arising from disability’.
An employer’s failure to adequately support an employee going through the menopause at work can also lead to claims of sex discrimination. For example, if a woman’s menopausal (or perimenopausal) symptoms were taken less seriously by their employer than an equivalent male employee’s health conditions, this may lead to a claim of sex discrimination in the workplace.
As menopause usually affects women of a certain age, it may lead to an age discrimination claim if an employee who was going through the menopause was treated less favourably as a result. Similarly, someone going through early menopause (or menopause for medical reasons) could potentially bring an age discrimination claim if they are treated less favourably than an employee going through the menopause at a more typical age.
If you are experiencing menopause discrimination in the workplace, it is important to speak to an expert Employment Law solicitor who can discuss what options are available to you. This usually involves raising a formal grievance and even bringing discrimination claims in the Employment Tribunal.
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