Here Katie Ash, Head of Employment Law at Banner Jones Solicitors, which has signed the Menopause Workplace Pledge, explains what employers should know if they have a member of staff who is experiencing menopause symptoms that are affecting their work.
According to the charity Wellbeing of Women, “around 25% of women will have no menopause symptoms, 25% will have a horrific experience and 50% will have some symptoms at some time, so this has a huge impact on the workplace”.
They also say “around 900,000 have quit their job because of the menopause”. That’s a truly eye-opening statistic, so it is unsurprising that we are seeing an increase in enquiries on this matter.
While the symptoms of menopause vary, for many it is a difficult and stressful time. Some people experience both physical and emotional changes which significantly impact their ability to work.
What should you do as an employer?
It is important employers are aware of the issues that affect people experiencing the menopause and that they deal with them sensitively – not only because that is the right thing to do, but also in line with the Equality Act 2010 which protects against discrimination.
While menopause is not a protected characteristic, sex is. Therefore, anyone who is treated less favourably due to any associated symptoms could bring a claim against their employer if they feel they have been treated less favourably as a result.
That means menopause symptoms should not factor into any decisions relating to, for example, promotions or redundancies.
Make reasonable adjustments
As with any ongoing mental or physical illness, employers should consider any reasonable adjustments that can be made – either to the working pattern, location or role-related tasks – to remove any disadvantage that the employee might experience.
For example, something as simple as a more relaxed dress code, more flexible work times or more regular breaks. Even improving the ventilation of a workspace might make a real difference.
Around 25% of women will have no menopause symptoms, 25% will have a horrific experience and 50% will have some symptoms at some time.
One of the most effective ways to prepare for any such situation is to keep lines of communication open. Providing training to managers to ensure they are equipped to offer support will also provide reassurance and ensure that conversations are dealt with appropriately.
If an employee feels supported, they are more likely to open up about the challenges they are experiencing and, as a result, discuss ways to manage issues – including mental health conditions linked to increased stress, such as anxiety or depression.
Don’t compromise health and safety
The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 plays an important role here, as it states that an employer must do what it can to ensure the health, safety and welfare of everyone at work. A failure to comply can have serious consequences for businesses.
If someone is struggling because of menopause symptoms, and it is compromising their safety or wellbeing, or the safety of others, an employer needs to address it.
Again, an open dialogue with employees will help, especially if you can demonstrate that procedures are in place to help them.