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26 Aug 2022
by Emma Olsson

Why menopause support in the workplace should be on your radar

There has been a big change in the recognition of the effects of menopause at work and employers should do more to understand and help sufferers

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It has been a big year in 2022 for highlighting menopause discrimination in the workplace.

An increase in tribunals, government initiatives, and companies implementing menopause policies has brought it out of the dark and into the spotlight.

Now, more than ever, employers should take into account the needs of employees going through menopause, who are the fastest growing demographic in the workforce

Discrimination cases are rising

The number of tribunals citing menopause discrimination are rising, according to recent data from the Menopause Experts Group.

In 2017, only five UK employment cases cited menopause – in 2021, there were 23 trials. One woman took her employer to court this year after she was given a formal warning after being off sick due to severe menopause symptoms. She described having to defend herself in front of three men who did not have an understanding of menopause.

This case is just one of many and it highlights a pervasive misunderstanding both of menopause and its scope under discrimination laws.

Earlier this year, a UK survey of 2,000 women aged 45 to 67 revealed that one-quarter of women are unhappy at work due to lack of menopause support, with more than 60% stating that their workplace does not have any menopause policy in place.

Are you doing enough to help?

Statistics like these have been the focus of an inquiry by the Women and Equalities Committee, which has made several calls for menopause policies beyond the scope of the Equality Act 2010.

An increase in menopause-centred tribunals and inquiries by government bodies raises new questions for employers. As an employer, are you doing enough to support your employees? Are you truly abiding by the Equality Act? Should you implement your own workplace menopause policy, and if so, how? 

As recent discrimination cases show, too many employers are unaware of the scope of the Equality Act as it relates to menopause and risk legal action without specific policies. While menopause is not a specific protected characteristic under the act, age, disability, gender reassignment and sex are – all aspects relevant to menopause.

An employer is required under the act to make reasonable adjustments to reduce disadvantages an individual might face due to a disability. When it comes to menopause, these adjustments could be allowing employees to work from home due to disrupted sleep, or recording absences from menopause separately from other absence due to illness. 

Educating managers

More than 90% of people say that menopausal or peri-menopausal symptoms have had a negative impact on their work. Introducing a robust menopause policy would mean educating HR and line managers on awareness of menopause symptoms and how they can affect work, and offering capability, disciplinary, and redundancy training so that employees are not wrongly reprimanded for the negative effects of menopause, like poor concentration or memory loss.

With Syrona’s workplace offering, employees can track menopause symptoms and access menopause specialists who they otherwise might not have access to through the NHS.

Specialists can offer support when it comes to hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and alternative treatments. HRT for menopause is still relatively uncommon. In some places in the UK, as few as 10% of those going through menopause take it.

Medicinal and natural alternatives are also available. Providing access to specialised care is a small step for employers that can make a huge difference for their workforces, while also keeping them secure within the legal framework. 

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