According to our new Menopause and the Workplace Report, most women* feel unsupported in the workplace during the menopause, leading many to consider either reducing their hours or leaving their jobs.
Only 9.3% of women who completed our survey felt supported in the workplace while going through the menopause, and 57% of women reported that hostile workplace environments impacted their wellbeing and ability to work. This, combined with the often challenging symptoms of menopause, can make life incredibly difficult for those experiencing menopause in the workplace.
There is a growing movement of women who are successfully campaigning together to petition and break the silence around menopause. You’ll find many of them sharing stories on social media using the hashtag #MakeMenopauseMatter.
Menopausal women are protected by Equality as well as Health & Safety law. There have already been two successful menopause tribunals (in 2012 and 2018) which can be read about on the Menopause in the Workplace website.
The Equality Act – know your rights
Under the 2010 Equality Act it is unlawful to discriminate against people at work because of a protected characteristic. The protected characteristics include age, disability and sex.
Many of us know that age discrimination is when you are treated differently because of your age. But fewer people know that indirect age discrimination may be the result of a rule or policy which puts people within a certain age group (i.e. menopausal age) at a disadvantage.
Likewise, sex discrimination is when you are treated differently because of your sex. But indirect sex discrimination may arise if an organisation has a particular policy or way of working that applies in the same way to both sexes but which puts a woman at a disadvantage because of her sex, unless it can be objectively justified.
Both of these laws mean that if a woman experiencing the menopause is treated detrimentally at work because of menopausal symptoms and these are not taken into account within policies or practices, it could potentially give rise to sex and age discrimination.
There is also a more detailed ‘Public Sector Equality Act’, which specifically covers public sector employees and suggests that public sector employers carry out an equality impact assessment (EIA) of both external policies affecting service users, customers and clients and internal policies affecting the employees.
Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 – know your rights
The Health and Safety at Work Act requires employers to ensure the health, safety and welfare of all workers. The Regulations require employers to assess the risks of ill health (which includes stress related conditions) arising from work-related activities to ensuring that the hazards are removed or that proper control measures are put in place to reduce it. Within this Act, employers should include the consideration of specific risks for women experiencing the menopause and if they don’t, well then there may be a case to fight.
We have provided a list of useful resources for you to learn more about the menopause, your rights in the workplace, and more. Click here.
* The women referred to in this report are primarily cisgender women, but not only women experience menopause. Experiences of Trans menopause varies hugely depending on individuals’ circumstances. We have sought information about trans menopause but found there is a lack of information available, which leads us to believe this would be a ripe area for further research. We have provided further information on trans menopause on our resources page, but welcome further input in this area.