Although women have been experiencing menopause for millennia, the effects have only recently become a hot issue in employment law.
We look at some of the issues, with links to some of the key literature.
The talk around menopause and the workplace law has been around for a long time, but it is now gaining traction again due to a report by the Women and Equalities Committee.
Key conclusions on menopause in the workplace
This newly-released article by the Women and Equalities Committee covers their findings on menopause in the workplace and how the stigma surrounding it has a negative effect on those who experience it. The report also makes suggestions on how the government can implement changes to the legislation, but it seems that this is a low priority.
Even though around 51% of the population will experience it in their lifetime, menopause has historically been something that is not discussed. The connotations behind menopause in modern society are making women fail to seek support which, in turn, causes more misinformation and repeats this cycle of menopause taboos.
Why is the menopause growing in importance in employment law?
As the length of working lives increases, so does the average age of workers. The state pension age is increasing around the world, as the population tend to live longer – and healthier – lives.
The fastest growing group within the workplace is currently women of menopausal age, but because of the hush-hush nature of ‘women’s issues’, those who experience symptoms tend to reduce their working hours or even leave work altogether as they discover that there is little or no support for them.
The lack of guidance or even education into how menopause symptoms can affect your working ability can cause stress and anxiety; this is why the Women’s and Equalities Committee (WEC) is calling for the government to enact legislation to recognise the fact of the menopause, as well as its potential effects.
What changes does the Women’s and Equalities Committee suggest?
The WEC wants the government to create a post for a dedicated ambassador to expose the issues that come with menopausal symptoms, and to protect the rights of those who deal with them.
Currently, there is no law in place to help people who have faced discrimination due to menopause and they want to make menopause a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010.
Having the ability to work flexible hours, to access additional sick leave and even for there to be mandatory menopause policies are all suggestions made by the Women’s and Equalities Committee in this report.
The main change they are advocating for however is simply providing employers and staff with resources that can be used to educate on how menopause has a big impact on many sufferers, both mentally and physically.
Though there are steps towards amending the legislation to be more inclusive, based on how the government responded to a report from July 2022 report changes will not happen any time soon. It was stated that menopause would fall under the ‘sex’ protected characteristic and so is not eligible as an individual reason for discrimination.
Deep-rooted issues with the menopause
Despite the fact that menopause has been a medical issue for millenia, even the medical profession is having issues with dealing with its effects.
This BMA report on menopause was only published in 2018, and it was only in 2022 that there have been calls to ensure there is sufficient training on the effects of the phenomenon within the NHS.
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