Menopause and Discrimination in the Workplace
With Menopause Awareness Day on the horizon, it’s important for employers to understand where the law stands on this matter to avoid potential tribunal claims. Recent research from Menopause Experts Group found that in 2021 the number of Employment Tribunals citing menopause has increased by 33% from the previous year. This is a significant rise and should raise alarm bells for most employers.
How are those going through the menopause protected by discrimination law?
According to the Equality Act 2010, menopause is not considered a protected characteristic. As a result, those who are going through the menopause do not have the same protections that they would with other protected characteristics such as race, sex, disability, or age.
That being said, there is a growing volume of case law indicating that employees are able to bring forward discrimination cases on the grounds of disability, as a result of menopausal symptoms. In order to raise a case on these grounds the individual must be able to prove:
Their symptoms are severe
Their symptoms last for at least one year
Their symptoms have had a significant impact on their ability to complete normal activities, meaning they could be regarded as disabled under the Equality Act.
If they can be regarded as disabled, employees have a right not to be discriminated against, harassed, or unfairly dismissed from work.
How to reduce the risk of menopause-related claims
There are four key steps that every employer can take to reduce the risk of menopause-related claims:
Training and education: Ensure all employees understand how to spot issues and understand how to discuss menopausal symptoms and issues in a non-discriminatory fashion.
Get a policy in place: By drafting a Menopause Policy employers can be comfortable in the fact that they have set a standard for how cases will be treated and ensure support is available.
Allow reasonable flexibility: Where employees have raised menopause related symptoms, employers should consider whether they can be flexible and make any reasonable adjustments to help employees complete their job effectively. Some examples of this include providing more breathable uniforms or office fans, adjusting work places, and adjusting workloads to help create a more inclusive workplace.
Behavioural standards: This is something that should be done for all discrimination cases, but make it clear to employees that the company has a zero-tolerance policy. What could be considered “workplace banter” is likely to be considered harassment under the Equality Act.
There is a lot of noise around menopause issues at present with many high profile menopause champions encouraging employees to request better support in the workplace. Employers should take steps now to ensure they have the necessary processes and support in place to avoid adding to the Employment Tribunal tally.