Figures from HM Courts and Tribunals Service show increased numbers of Employment Tribunal claims citing menopause as the cause of discriminatory treatment or dismissal. In this article we look at why this is happening and examine the law around menopause discrimination in the workplace.
Why are we seeing more menopause related claims?
The menopause typically occurs between the ages of 45 and 55. Women in the 50 to 64 age bracket are currently the fastest growing demographic in the UK workplace with nearly 70% now in employment compared to 53% back in the year 2000.
Given this growth, it’s no surprise that we are seeing an increase in tribunal claims. Figures are still small, but are growing rapidly and with increased publicity around the issues we expect to see further increases.
Who is affected by the menopause?
The menopause will impact almost all women and, in some cases, transgender individuals who no longer identify as women. For this reason we will refer to those affected as “menopausal people”. Menopausal symptoms vary, and while they do not affect all people, they can have a severe impact.
Symptoms can include depression, insomnia, anxiety, palpitations, memory loss, migraines and a host of other symptoms that can severely impact an individual’s ability to work effectively.
Are menopausal people protected by discrimination law in the workplace?
Menopause is not regarded as a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010. This means that those suffering from the menopause are not directly protected in the same way as other protected characteristics such as age, sex, race or disability.
However, there is a growing volume of case law indicating that employees can bring claims for unlawful discrimination on the grounds of disability resulting from menopausal symptoms. To do so they must be able to prove that:
- The symptoms suffered are severe
- They last for a sustained period (12 months or longer)
- The symptoms have such a significant impact on their day-to-day activities that they could be regarded as disabled under the Equality Act.
If they can be regarded as disabled, employees have a right not to be discriminated against, harassed, or unfairly dismissed from work.
How can employers reduce the risk of menopause-related claims?
There are four key steps we recommend employers take to reduce the risk of menopause-related claims at work:
- Train managers – give guidance on how to spot issues and how to talk to employees in a non-discriminatory way if they raise an issue regarding menopausal symptoms
- Write down your policy – put in place a Menopause Policy setting out how cases will be treated and the support or adjustments that can be offered.
- Make reasonable adjustments – once aware of an employee’s menopause related symptoms, consider any practical, reasonable adjustments that you be made so they can do their job effectively. This may be as simple as providing fans in the workplace or breathable uniforms, or in more severe cases considering flexible working patterns, adjusting workload levels or allowing a move to a more suitable working environment.
- Set standards of behaviour – make it clear to all employees that workplace banter of the kind referring to someone as being “menopausal” is unacceptable as it could be considered as harassment under the Equality Act (most likely on the grounds of age, sex or disability).
Whether you are an employer needing guidance with menopause issues, or an employee facing menopause-related discrimination, our expert team are here to help. Contact us today for more information and to book a free 30 minute consultation with one of our friendly employment solicitors.
Tel: 01245 893400
Visit: 17 Duke Street, Chelmsford, CM1 1JU
Or send us a message through the Contact Us page on this website.