Our expert Employment Law Solicitors answer frequently asked questions about menopause discrimination at work.
Menopause is not considered a protected characteristic under the 2010 Equality Act, but employees who are discriminated against because they are going through the menopause may be able to bring claims of disability discrimination, age discrimination or sex discrimination. The nature of these claims will depend on the individual circumstances and the menopause symptoms that the employee is experiencing.
One example of menopause discrimination at work would be if an employee’s menopausal symptoms were treated less seriously than a male employee’s health condition when considering performance issues that resulted from the condition. This could be considered to be an example of sex discrimination.
Unfair treatment of workers who are going though the menopause, including unfair selection for redundancy, may be considered to be age discrimination, as women going through the menopause are usually aged between 45 – 55.
Another example of menopause discrimination would be if an employer began performance managing an employee due to performance issues related to adverse menopausal symptoms. If those adverse symptoms amounted to a disability under the Equality Act, there would be a potential claim for direct disability discrimination or discrimination arising from disability. There may also be a failure to make reasonable adjustments in particular to any Performance Improvement Plan being followed.
Many claims of menopause discrimination are based on the fact that menopausal symptoms may amount to a disability under the Equality Act. For these symptoms to meet the legal definition of disability, employees will need to show that such symptoms have a substantially adverse impact on their ability to undertake normal day-to-day activities, and are or likely to be long term (for 12 months or more).When assessing the impact of the symptoms on the employee, the positive effects of medication (such as HRT) should be ignored.
If the symptoms of an employee who is going through the menopause amount to a disability under the Equality Act, their employer should make reasonable adjustments to avoid any disadvantages or challenges the employee faces as a result of their disability.
Employees should consult with their employer and agree adjustments that will help them work effectively. These will vary from person to person, but some examples could include:
If a request for reasonable adjustments is denied by the employer without good and valid reason, the employee should consider raising a formal grievance against the employer as this may constitute disability discrimination.
Unwanted comments, jokes, ridicule or banter about a woman’s menopausal symptoms are all likely to constitute harassment or bulling in the workplace and may also be discriminatory. If an employer does not make it very clear that this behaviour is inappropriate (especially if they do not have a menopause policy in place), employees should consider raising a formal grievance and consulting an expert Employment Law solicitor who can advise them on their next steps.
If an employer has dismissed an employee without properly considering how the employee’s menopausal symptoms relate to the reason for the dismissal, or if they have failed to follow a fair procedure, the employee may be able to make an unfair dismissal claim. Employees will have three months (less one day) from the date their employment was terminated to notify ACAS about their potential dispute, which is a necessary step to be taken before issuing a claim. make an unfair dismissal claim. Unfair dismissal claims can only be made by employees with at least two years’ service, hut if the dismissal is discriminatory there is no service requirement and a claim of discrimination for age, sex or disability can be lodged. An Employment lawyer should be able to advise you on whether an employee has a case for unfair dismissal.
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