Last month the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) published new guidance to help employers understand their legal obligations in relation to individuals experiencing menopause symptoms in the workplace. 

Why does this matter?

On average, perimenopause and menopause affects women aged 45-55, meaning that 51% of the population will experience the menopause. Symptoms can last between four and eight years, but for some women, symptoms will last a lot longer. The effects can be severe and long-lasting, with many experiencing physical and mental symptoms such as low mood, anxiety, fatigue, poor concentration, heavy periods, anaemia, palpitations, difficulty sleeping, hot flushes, sweating and muscle/joint pain.

We are seeing increased numbers of women aged 50 to 64 remaining in work, which means that more women will experience menopausal symptoms during their working lives, and these symptoms can have a negative impact for them in the workplace. Recent survey results have indicated that one in 10 women say they have left their jobs due to their symptoms, with 52% saying they have lost confidence at work.

Protections under the Equality Act 2010?

Menopause is not a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010, which means that women have to rely on the protected characteristics of age, sex and disability should they feel the need to seek legal protection and/or redress. It is also worth remembering that the menopause may affect people that do not identify as women (such as trans individuals and those who identify as non-binary).

In recent years we have seen increasing social awareness about the effects of perimenopause and menopause, and we have also seen cases that cite the menopause filter through the employment tribunal system. However, given the lack of clarity in this area, employers may well be unaware of their obligations towards those experiencing menopause.

How will the EHRC's guidance help?

The EHRC’s guidance aims to help employers understand their obligations. It provides information about symptoms, how those affected may be supported and it also provides guidance for creating an open culture where people feel able to talk about their symptoms. Importantly, you will also find videos that explain the menopause and its interaction with the Equality Act, together with information regarding workplace adjustments. 

The guidance is certainly a useful reminder for employers and will hopefully serve as an aide-memoire for those wanting to assist staff and help break down social barriers.  

If you would like to discuss this guidance further, or speak to one of our employment law experts about your obligations and how your organisation can support its staff, then please get in contact with our Employment Team.

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