It’s time to talk about the menopause in work.
Here we discuss why employers and employees should have more open communication about this phase of life, and any legal issues that may arise if not handled correctly.
Is Menopause a ‘Taboo’ Subject?
No, the menopause is not and should not be a taboo subject!
Much like the speaking out about mental health and breaking the silence, menopause needs to be treated in a similar way to enable individuals to speak openly with their employer about their situation, knowing that they will be treated in a sensitive manner.
Is There Guidance Available for Employers?
These figures indicate that an increasing amount of women will be affected by the menopause during their working life. At present, workers who are suffering with the health changes as a result of the menopause often do not disclose their symptoms to their employer, but ACAS have published new guidance which aims to help employer’s support, manage and handle the impact the menopause can have on workers.
Why Don’t People Talk About the Menopause?
Some individuals may be embarrassed or worried about telling their manager.
They may be worried that their symptoms will become widely known, it will affect their job security or chance of promotion, and that they will be subject to workplace ‘banter’.
What Are the Potential Legal Implications?
Employers owe a duty of care to their workers and must treat all workers fairly. If they don’t, then this could result in a breach of trust and confidence by the employer. In addition to this, employers must ensure the health, safety and welfare of workers at work (Health and Safety at Work Act 1974).
It is important that an employer is aware of the consequences which can be brought by a worker if they feel that they have not been treated correctly as a result of the menopause.
The worker can raise the following potential claims:
- Sex Discrimination (the Equality Act (EqA) 2010)
- Disability Discrimination (EqA 2010)
- Age Discrimination (EqA 2010)
The Equality Act 2010 does not protect menopause and perimenopause specifically under the act. However, if an employer treats a worker unfairly because of their menopause or perimenopause then it can amount to discrimination under the Equality Act 2010.
A Few Case Examples:
Merchant v BT Plc.
As employee was dismissed as a result of receiving a final writing warning for poor performance. The employee’s doctor had written a letter stating: “going through the menopause which can affect her level of concentration”. The employee’s manager failed to carry out any further medical investigations into her symptoms and did not follow BT’s performance management policy.
Employment Tribunals Decision: Upheld the claim for direct sex discrimination and unfair dismissal. The judge commented that the manager would not have adopted such a “bizarre and irrational approach with other non-female-related conditions”.
Davies v Scottish Court and Tribunals
The employee suffered from menopause transition symptoms, to which her employer stated she had lied. Therefore, the court was in disrepute when she stated in court that her colleagues may have drunk water containing her medication.
Employment Tribunal Decision: Upheld the claim for unfair dismissal and discrimination arising from disability. Her menopause caused her to be forgetful and confused, and during the hearing her employers were unable to justify her treatment.
What Can Employers Do To Help Their Workers?
- Employers can look at implementing a menopause policy which will set out an employer’s approach to dealing with workplace issues relating to menopause.
- Provide training to senior managers, line managers, HR and supervisors, etc. Ensuring all managers have an understanding and are trained to talk, listen and deal with each situation sensitively.
- Create an open and trusting workplace in order for workers to feel like they can speak to their managers about the menopause and how it is affecting their health e.g. have a wellbeing champion who will be a point of contact.
- Make changes where possible. Can you alter the workers working hours? Provide a desk fan? Allow the worker to take more regular breaks?
Need Legal Help?
If you are an employer and would like legal guidance regarding the menopause, or any other employment issue, our friendly and knowledgeable solicitors can help. Get in touch today to speak to a member of our team.