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Menopause Discrimination

Employment Law Team

Menopause Discrimination in the Workplace

What is the menopause?

Menopause is when a woman’s periods stop due to lower hormone levels. It usually affects women between the ages of 45 and 55 but can happen earlier. It can also affect trans people and anyone who has or had periods.

Menopause can happen naturally or for other reasons, including surgery to remove the ovaries or uterus, cancer treatments including chemotherapy, or for a genetic reason.

There are 3 stages

  • Perimenopause
  • Menopause
  • Post menopause

Unpleasant symptoms can include anxiety, depression, insomnia, difficulty concentrating, tiredness muscle weakness and cramps, headaches and hot flashes and night sweats.

For some, it can be a difficult and stressful time and for others, no problem at all. Everyone experiences the menopause differently and it is important to manage and support staff in the workplace.

Menopause and the Equality Act

The menopause does not have specific employment legislation in the Equality Act addressing this natural life process.

However, many menopausal symptoms can be sufficiently severe to fit the legal definition of disability. This is a physical or mental impairment which has a long term (likely to last more than a year), substantially adverse effect on day to day activities.

Even if HRT lessens the symptoms the relevant effect is how it would be without the HRT.

This would then trigger an employer’s duty to consider making reasonable adjustments.

Menopausal symptoms could also result in ‘discrimination arising from disability’, which is where a worker is treated unfairly not directly because of their disability, but because of something that arises from it. For example, if an employee struggled to complete certain tasks because of anxiety or difficulty concentrating as a result of their menopause, and was dismissed as a result.

Also women can be discriminated because of their sex and age in relation to the menopause. For example, if an employer treated a woman’s menopause or perimenopause symptoms less seriously than they would treat an equivalent male worker’s heath conditions, this could be an example of sex discrimination at work.

Similarly, if an employee going through the menopause was treated less favourably as a result of this, it could lead to an age discrimination claim because menopause usually affects people of a particular age. Another example of age discrimination associated with the menopause could be where younger employees are discriminated against if they are experiencing earlier menopause or menopause for medical reasons.

If an employee is experiencing menopause discrimination in the workplace, they may raise a formal grievance or even bring discrimination claims in the Employment Tribunal.

It is important that employers take clear steps to prevent menopause discrimination in the workplace taking place. This will often involve ensuring that their company handbooks and contracts include a comprehensive menopause policy. Having a menopause policy at work will establish the responsibilities the employer has to prevent menopause discrimination.

We have put together a free menopause policy template for employers [Word Doc Download].

If you are concerned about menopause discrimination at work, or need assistance drafting a menopause workplace policy, contact our expert Employment Law solicitors on 01273 609911, or email info@ms-solicitors.co.uk.

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