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Commons Committee argues the menopause should be a protected characteristic

 Commons Committee argues the menopause should be a protected characteristic

The House of Commons Women and Equalities Committee published its report “Menopause and the Workplace” at the end of July 2022.

The report did not call for employers to have mandatory menopause policies, but did say that employers should do more to help the employees, commenting that if they do not, they risk discrimination claims and reputational damage. The report’s suggestions include practical adjustments, fostering greater respect and understanding of the menopause, and additional flexibility.

The report states that the government should appoint a Menopause Ambassador who could, amongst other things, produce model menopause policies, trial menopause leave and generally champion good practice. Such policies should include how to request reasonable adjustments and support, sick leave for symptoms, and provision of training and advice on flexible working.

The government is urged to bring forward legislation, lamenting the absence of the promised Employment Bill. The report states that such legislation should include the removal of the qualifying period of employment for requesting flexible working.

Most significantly, the report comments that current legislation does not specifically protect menopausal women, resulting in them often having to assert that they are disabled in order to be able to make a claim. As such, the report calls for consultation on making menopause a protected characteristic, thus providing specific protection from discrimination and imposing a duty to provide reasonable adjustments for menopausal employees.

To date, the government has confirmed that it does not intend to make changes to the Equality Act. However, a Women’s Health Ambassador for England has been appointed, and will sit on the UK Menopause Task Force.

We will endeavour to keep you informed of any developments.

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