EHRC Menopause Guidance for Employers

Samer Cheaitou
Samer Cheaitou
Trainee Solicitor
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The Equality and Human Rights Commission (“EHRC”) has recently published guidance for employers on menopause in the workplace, seeking to clarify employer legal obligations under the Equality Act 2010 (“EA10”).

Which employees may be affected?

Though the menopause usually happens between the ages of 45 and 55, it can happen earlier or later and for a number of different reasons. The menopause and perimenopause can cause a variety of symptoms, both physical and psychological. These can have a significant impact on women at work.

The EHRC cited research which concluded that two thirds of working women between 40 and 60 who were experiencing menopausal symptoms said these had a mostly negative impact on them at work. The EHRC has confirmed that over 50% of respondents could think of a time when they were unable to go to work because of their menopause symptoms.

Menopause as a disability & reasonable adjustments

Thinking about the legal definition of a “disability” under the EA10, then if symptoms of the menopause have a long term, adverse and substantial impact on a woman’s ability to carry out normal day to day activities, this could amount to a disability under the EA10.

In that case, Employers would have a duty to make reasonable adjustments and the worker would be protected from discrimination in connection with the condition. Failure to make reasonable adjustments (which will, in many cases, also be important to be made from a health and safety law perspective) will amount to disability discrimination.

Examples of potential reasonable adjustments might be:

  • Accommodating flexible working
  • Providing rest areas or quiet rooms
  • Providing cooling systems or fans for women experiencing hot flushes
  • Allowing women to wear cooler clothing

Making adjustments in the workplace will foster beneficial employee relations and will allow employers to attract and retain talented workers. Of course, not all women will be affected by the menopause in the same way. It is therefore important for employers to provide adjustments in a way tailored to the needs of each individual.

Indirect discrimination risks

It is important to remember that any policies which, whilst perhaps though applied universally across a workforce, are disadvantageous to women experiencing menopausal symptoms, may amount to indirect discrimination on the grounds of age, sex or disability.  For example, absences related to menopause should be recorded separately from other kinds of absence as any disciplinary action resulting from this could be discriminatory.

Open conversations & cultural changes?

Employers should encourage and facilitate open conversations about the menopause, emphasising the support available and encouraging workers to talk about their symptoms and ask for adjustments where required.  A menopause policy could also be introduced to outline the available support and provide guidance to colleagues and managers.

If you would like to discuss the EHRC’s guidance in more detail, or if we can provide support or assistance on any other employment law matters, please do not hesitate to contact a member of the team on 0141 331 5150.

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