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Menopause and the Workplace

Menopause and the Workplace

The government is seeking views in relation to the extent of discrimination faced by menopausal people in the workplace. They wish to investigate how policy and working practices might better support menopausal people. My inference is that the government is considering whether there needs to be additional protection for menopausal people, over and above existing legislation.

The background to this development is that in 2019 a survey conducted by BUPA and the Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development concluded that 3 in 5 menopausal people, usually aged between 45 and 55, were negatively affected at work. They found that a huge number (almost 900,000) of women in the UK left their jobs because of menopausal symptoms, although the period of time that that covered was undefined.

Their conclusions were, quite reasonably, that women were leaving the workplace "at the peak of their [career] experience". The government's Call For Evidence comments that women in this age-group are likely to be eligible for senior management roles, and comments further that these women leaving the workplace will significantly impact executive level diversity. They also point out that this will contribute to the gender pay gap and unequal pensions.

The enquiry will examine the extent of discrimination faced by menopausal people in the workplace. It will look into how government policy and workplace practices might support them.

This may, as has been called for in the past, result in legislation requiring employers to operate systems or policies to protect menopausal people from discrimination at work.

It is unlikely that there will be any imminent changes, as this is at its formative stages.

In the meantime, menopause discrimination remains largely covered under the protected characteristics of age, sex and disability discrimination, and as such, depending on the circumstances, claims may still be available under the Equality Act 2010. In addition, the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 provides for safe working, and this extends to working conditions for people experiencing menopausal symptoms.

These issues were discussed towards the end of Radio 4's Woman's Hour programme on Tuesday 10th August 2021, available on BBC Sounds app and here:

We will provide updates, as and when available.

This is not legal advice; it is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues.

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