Is the menopause really a business issue?

04 Jun 2021

There has been a lot in the news in recent months about the impact of the menopause on employees, and the extent to which employers should be supporting employees who may be struggling with symptoms. 

Why should businesses care?

Aside from legal obligations as an employer (see below), a Government report on menopause has identified that menopausal women are the “fastest growing workforce demographic”. It is an increasingly important issue for businesses of all sizes - most employers do not want to lose a large and experienced pool of talent.

Legal obligations

The symptoms associated with the menopause can vary between individuals. The NHS lists a number of symptoms including hot flushes, headaches, low mood and anxiety, palpitations and joint pain. It estimates most symptoms last around 4 years, though one in four women will experience them for up to 12 years.

If symptoms are severe and have lasted, or are likely to last for a period of 12 months or more then it is possible that the individual could meet the definition of disability under the Equality Act 2010. This means that, amongst other things, an employer has a duty to make reasonable adjustments. If performance is impacted due to the effect of symptoms, an individual could have a successful claim for unfair dismissal and/or sex discrimination. 

How to help

There are a number of things that employers could do to support staff experiencing the effects of the menopause:
  • Encourage openness. In the past, the topic may not have been discussed in the workplace. Promoting a culture where individuals feel comfortable discussing the subject will help employers support menopausal women.
  • Be flexible in your approach to work. Depending on symptoms, it may be helpful to consider adjustments in hours or location of work.
  • Signpost support. Some women may prefer to talk to mental health first aiders, HR or external bodies rather than their immediate line managers. 
The new spotlight on the menopause is to be welcomed, and employers who support their workforce are likely to see the benefits through lower sickness absence and higher retention.

If you have an enquiry or would like further advice relating to any issues highlighted above, please contact Abigail Maino by phone on 01483 467 412 or by email.

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