Buck Bond Group
Menopause support in the workplace

Menopause support in the workplace

by Tags:

World Menopause Day, on 18th October each year, is an opportunity for employers to raise awareness about menopause and the associated symptoms, and to help their employees understand the health and wellbeing support available. Though there is still much progress left to make, menopause has been discussed more openly in the workplace in the last few years. This has been helped by more information on how menopause can affect productivity – and how this can be mitigated – being made available.

An employment tribunal ruling on a landmark case is set to intensify the importance of menopause support as a factor of equality in the workplace, further highlighting menopause as a workplace issue. A social worker named Maria Rooney has brought a case against Leicester City Council for discrimination and harassment on the grounds of disability and sex. The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) that is supporting the case has said that every employer in the country should take note of the hearing.

A preliminary Employment Tribunal hearing in February 2022 ruled for the first time that whilst menopause itself is not a disability, Ms Rooney’s menopausal symptoms (and associated stress and anxiety symptoms) were a disability, which would therefore fall under the Equality Act 2010. The judgment ruling was that “At all material times, the claimant was disabled within the meaning given by s.6 of the Equality Act 2010 by virtue of a combination of symptoms of the menopause associated with symptoms of stress and anxiety.”

The claimant cited that no one provided her with support when suffering menopausal symptoms and associated anxiety in the workplace, and she received a formal warning for her sickness absence. Her appeal against the warning was rejected and she resigned in 2018. She logged an Employment Tribunal claim for constructive unfair dismissal, after receiving unfavourable treatment and inappropriate comments. The claimant said her employer “had no compassion and understanding and awareness of the menopause” and that “nobody listened or helped me.”  The Council did not consider the reasons for her absence, and did not make the recommended role adjustments, as advised in an occupational health assessment report.

Under the Equality Act, employers have a duty to make reasonable adjustments to roles and responsibilities in the workplace where symptoms are significant enough to be considered a disability. It is now better understood how menopausal symptoms can significantly impact someone’s ability to work. Among others, menopause symptoms can include hot flushes and night sweats, chills, insomnia, mood changes, anxiety and depression, recurring urinary tract infections, headaches, weight gain and issues with concentration and memory.

Ms Rooney has pledged her support for women in similar situations, saying “I hope no other woman has to go through what I went through, and I want to see more support for women in their workplaces.” The Council is currently contesting the claims and the Tribunal decision is expected in the coming weeks.

It’s therefore time for employers to reboot communications to employees, moving beyond the implementation of workplace policies and breaking down taboos around discussing menopause, to now take positive actions to improve women’s health in the workplace. Actions could include:

  • Education about menopause, menopausal symptoms and associated health issues
  • Introducing menopause self-help support apps
  • Reviewing shift patterns
  • Reviewing mandatory uniforms for suitability and comfort
  • Introducing – or bolstering engagement with – an Employee Assistance Programme
  • Encouraging healthy lifestyles through a benefits strategy, e.g. by providing gym discounts, bike to work schemes, nutrition counselling etc.

There are health providers that specifically deliver workplace menopause support for employees. This can be through a bespoke package including apps, personal consultations, live education events and resource material and lifestyle courses. Employers should assess whether such targeted support is available, and if so, if it is being utilised or implemented effectively.

Introducing menopause services will not just support the women in your business and impact productivity, but will also deliver positive results for any company strategies around diversity, equity and inclusion, the gender pay gap, age equality, absence management and company culture changes and branding. As the need for menopause support becomes more widely recognised, now is the time to look at your organisation’s policies and support on offer.