The Menopause and WorkPosted: 13th June 2022
According to a survey conducted by the Fawcett Society 44% of women surveyed reported that their ability to do their job was affected by symptoms of the menopause and 52% reported a loss of confidence at work. One in Ten complained that they left their job because of their symptoms and 41% complained that the menopause or their symptoms had been treated as a joke by their colleagues.
Small wonder then that statistics released recently by Menopause Experts Group reveal a 44%increase in cases citing the menopause in 2021 compared to the previous year.
In the view of those campaigning for greater recognition of the problems faced by women going through the menopause, typically between the ages of 45 and 55, the issues stem from a lack of awareness in the workplace and consequent lack of support as well as a “culture of silence” which inhibits women from discussing how they are affected at work typically by fatigue from difficulty in sleeping, anxiety, memory function and difficulty in managing body temperature. Self-evidently unsupported employees are unlikely to be productive or motivated employees.
The menopause is not currently a ‘protected characteristic’ under the Equality Act 2010 however women who have pursued and are pursuing claims in the Employment Tribunal have argued that they have nevertheless been treated unfairly ( discriminated against) by their employers for reasons connected to the currently recognized characteristics of ‘Sex’, ‘Age’ and ‘Disability’ and those employers who are shown not to have in place policies and procedures to recognize the issues affecting women going through the menopause may well find themselves vulnerable to claims of Unlawful Discrimination as well as claims for Unfair Dismissal.
For those campaigning for greater protection of menopausal women at work inclusion of the Menopause in the Equality Act, greater awareness training and the implementation of policies similar to those applying to anti-discrimination policies, is regarded as the desired ‘way forward’ so too is a proposal for flexible working to be a default entitlement to women affected by the menopause and making this clear in job advertisements. The menopause can’t be avoided but the obstacles faced by women affected at work by its symptoms can, it is suggested, be removed or overcome.
Graham Shannon is an Employment solicitor with over 20 years experience, for advice on your employment rights relating to menopause, please contact him on 0191 500 6989 or email [email protected].