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ET rules that symptoms of menopause are a disability

Makbool Javaid, Partner - Simons Muirhead & Burton

In the case of Daley v Optiva, Mrs Daley is a 51 year old woman. In her disability impact statement, she says that she has been suffering with symptoms of menopause for over two years including hot flushes, night sweats, headaches, joint pain and tingling extremities. Mentally, she endured anxiety, panic attacks, disrupted sleep, memory lapses and difficulty concentrating. She had also been diagnosed with an overactive thyroid, but her symptoms apparently arose predominantly from the menopause.

She launched proceedings alleging, amongst other things, that her employer had failed to make reasonable adjustments to cater for her disability. The question of whether she was in fact disabled within the meaning of Section 6 of the Equality Act 2010 was considered at a preliminary hearing.

Ruling in the woman’s favour on that issue, the ET noted that the statutory definition of disability requires that a person must have a physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on their ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities. A substantial effect is more than minor or trivial.

This is an issue which employers need to be cognisant of and, in light of recent tribunal decisions, be prepared to make reasonable adjustments to working arrangements. Putting in place a menopause policy may make women feel more able to open up a discussion with their employers about how they are feeling, and managers should be trained to deal with concerns sensitively. ACAS have guidance for employers to help manage the impact of menopause at work and the CIPD also have a suite of helpful documents.

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