Blog Img

Employers must offer better support to their menopausal employees

Back to Blogs

It has been interesting reading the many articles following the recent guidance issued by The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), emphasising the need for employers to recognise menopause symptoms as a disability.

This places the responsibility on employers to make “reasonable adjustments” to support menopausal employees or potentially face legal consequences.

It is a proven fact that menopausal women often encounter challenges in the workplace, with two-thirds of women aged 40 to 60 experiencing menopausal symptoms that can significantly disrupt their professional lives.

These symptoms, including hot flushes, brain fog, and difficulty sleeping, can significantly impact daily activities.

Under the Equality Act 2010, employers would be obligated to make reasonable adjustments that address the “long-term and substantial impact” of menopausal symptoms on an employee’s ability to perform their usual tasks.

The recommended adjustments include providing rest areas, offering flexible working hours, and relaxing uniform policies to accommodate cooler clothing choices.

Failure to make reasonable adjustments constitutes disability discrimination, carrying legal repercussions, as well as the costs associated with defending claims and potential talent loss.

Women leaving their jobs due to menopause-related symptoms is a concerning trend.

Alarmingly, EHRC’s research reveals that one in 10 women surveyed left their roles due to menopause-related symptoms.

Yet, despite the negative impact experienced by two-thirds of women with symptoms, many refrain from seeking reasonable adjustments, often due to fears of repercussions or lack of understanding from employers.

EHRIC’s guidance cautions against disciplinary action targeting women for menopause-related absences as it could amount to discrimination. Additionally, any form of ridicule or harassment relating to menopausal symptoms may constitute harassment.

EHRC Chairwomen, Baroness Kishwer Falkner, emphasises that it is imperative for employers to fully grasp their legal obligations to protect their staff under this law.

By fostering a culture of understanding and support, businesses can benefit from creating inclusive workplaces that support the needs of all employees across their different life stages.

Menopause support should be tailored to individual needs

Kathleen Stock from The Sunday Times, made an interesting point that, whilst a complicated issue, people may have misread what the EHRC were actually saying.

She goes on to say, "As far as I can see, the commission is not arguing that perimenopausal and menopause in general should count as disabilities, but rather that when particular symptoms became severe enough, they might count as such."

She states, "Friends of hers who went through severe ‘flooding’ extremely heavy periods, sometimes lasting weeks, causing pain, constant trips to the bathroom, and in some cases anaemia – I don’t see what else you could call it but disabling."

One of my close friends had similar problems, not only was it terribly painful, the anxiety she experienced about leaving the house was crippling as she had the fear of ‘leaking’ through her clothes.

As Stock says,"If, on the other hand, you have no problems or only minor ones, you wouldn’t be specially protected – and that’s surely how it should be."

This highlights the importance of offering support that’s tailored to the individual.

Menopause support is just another part of creating an inclusive culture

Every individual is different and at different times in their lives, they may require different support mechanisms whether it is for neurodiversity adjustments, general health and well-being, pregnancy, or the menopause.

At Ambition, we released a menopause policy last year to support our staff who are experiencing symptoms.

Many employers now have multi-generational work forces and need to adapt to the period of life their employee is in and to the support they may need.

There is a lack of understanding by many as to what the menopause symptoms are and how it can affect those people experiencing symptoms.

Most women will experience the menopause at some stage in their life to either a severe or lesser degree.

By having more women in senior positions who have experienced or are going through the perimenopause and menopause, we hope that there will be a better level of empathy, understanding and the right kind of support.​

Related articles