A 44% rise in anything over a 12-month period is, by most people’s reckoning, worthy of some fanfare and action. Both, however, appear a little muted when it comes to the 44% rise in employment tribunals that reference menopause. But unfortunately with so many other ongoing challenges, many employers ignore this figure and, therefore, both the well-being and potential suffering of a sizeable number of their staff and the potential loss of key female employees who are unable to continue to work with such disregard (intentional or otherwise) for their wellbeing. 

What are the claims that reference menopause?

These claims allege disability discrimination, unfair dismissal, and sex discrimination in equal measures.  

According to a recent report by the Fawcett Society and Channel 4 (found here), women are experiencing 'unnecessary misery' at work. The report notes that one in 10 women have left the workplace because of symptoms of menopause. Although the cases are having a mixed response and success rate, a recent Employment Appeals Tribunal decision noted in an October 2021 judgement that it was difficult to see how the claimant’s menopausal symptoms did not meet the definition of a disability despite her employer, the occupational health provider and an employment tribunal disputing this fact. 

What’s the Government’s response?

Back in July 2021, the House of Commons Women and Equalities Committee launched an inquiry into workplace issues surrounding menopause. The purpose of this inquiry was to look at existing discrimination legislation and workplace practices to see what could be done to prevent women from leaving employment or suffering other consequences.  

The inquiry is ongoing, but on 25 May 2022 the Government confirmed it has no intention of introducing menopause as a protected characteristic (so making it easier for a female employee to bring a discrimination claim) but reiterated that its 'key objective is to ensure that women going through menopause are treated fairly at work…'

Not much to go on for employees or employers!

How should employers respond?

Whether these statistics were prompted by the recent media interest in menopause or vice versa, organisations should be considering how they treat staff who are experiencing menopause and how they create an environment where these staff feel able to speak up and address issues.  

Here are some of the steps that in my view employers should be taking:

    • Educating staff – this applies to all staff and not just managers although clearly, the training will need to be tailored. Educate staff so they understand what is 'menopause', and the various stages and symptoms. This should be done through…
    • Training staff – include it as part of your Equality and Diversity Training or as a separate session. It does not have to be long and complex but rather sessions which raise awareness in which you are...
    • Creating awareness amongst staff so they can recognise symptoms in colleagues and behave appropriately and sensitively. It is worth noting that transgender and non-binary staff may also suffer from menopausal symptoms and so ensuring that policies and training remain inclusive. 

Clearly, the issue is worthy of more than three short bullet points in a blog post, but we can provide the following support to help train, educate and create awareness:

    • Policies and documentation which confirm a commitment to providing an open, informed and educated environment for those going through menopause.
    • Training for staff on potential discrimination issues and steps to avoid them.
    • Ongoing advice when dealing with specific staff who are experiencing symptoms and/or difficulties.