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Menopause should be classed as a protected characteristic

Makbool Javaid, Partner - Simons Muirhead & Burton

A cross-party group of MPs have called for the menopause to be made a protected characteristic. The government recently published it’s response to the ‘Menopause and the Workplace: How to enable fulfilling working lives’ report. Women will experience menopause symptoms that can, in some cases, be debilitating and have a significant impact on everyday activities. Without appropriate care these symptoms can have severe impacts on women’s physical and mental health, workplace participation and personal relationships.

In July 2021 the Minister for Employment asked members of the Roundtable on older workers to look at the important issue of menopause and employment given the impact menopause can have on women’s working lives, particularly in the latter stages of their careers.

The increased awareness about the impact of menopause upon individuals and the knock-on effect that this can have on their working life, together with the dramatic rise in menopause-related Employment Tribunal claims (up 44% in 2021 compared to 2020), has prompted many companies to take pro-active steps to improve the knowledge and understanding of staff (particularly managers), publish policies regarding menopause and point menopausal employees towards available support.

Recommendations include the following:

  1. Nominate a Menopause Ambassador to work on behalf of Government to represent the interests of people experiencing menopause transition. This role should promote the economic contribution made by women, the missed productivity by employers and tax revenue by Government and include supporting all elements of the affected population including ethnic minority, disabled and LGBTQ.
  2. Equality Act section 14 enacted to enable intersectional, multiple, discrimination claims to be recognised.
  3. All the stages of menopause transition to be referenced as a priority issue in Government’s public policy agenda on work, diversity and inclusion.
  4. Develop methodology to quantify the cost of menopause on the individual, businesses and the UK economy.
  5. DHSC and NHS-led implementation of a more holistic view of the menopause transition by clinicians in England, which doesn’t just focus on the immediate clinical response, but encompasses mental health and long-term well-being. Specific consideration should be given to a public health campaign

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