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Employers should be proactive to guard against discrimination claims arising from the menopause

Women over 50 are the fastest growing sector of the workforce and most will go through the menopause during their working life. It can be a difficult and sensitive area for employers with a recent case reminding us that there is a potential for symptoms to meet the statutory definition of disability under the Equality Act.

Women over 50 are the fastest growing sector of the workforce and most will go through the menopause during their working life. It can be a difficult and sensitive area for employers with a recent case reminding us that there is a potential for symptoms to meet the statutory definition of disability under the Equality Act.

Until around three years ago there was no case law in relation to the menopause as a sex discrimination or age discrimination issue but then in 2018 a Scottish employment tribunal judge told Mandy Davies, 45, that her condition was a “disability” and ruled bosses discriminated against her because of it.

More recently there has been the case of Daley v Optiva where a 51 year old woman experienced the menopause for 2 years and struggled with day to day activities like carrying shopping bags or driving for long periods, hot flushes and an impacted ability to socialise.

It is incumbent on the employer to create an environment and culture where the employee can disclose around issues where there may be embarrassment. If you have policies that impact certain ages like working hours not being flexible and you can’t justify that policy, then potentially it could be discriminatory. ACAS have guidance for employers and managers, how to manage the menopause at work, training, guidance about culture, implementing low-cost changes like desk fans, air conditioning and being more aware.

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