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Regulator provides advice for employers on menopause and the Equality Act

The Equality and Human Rights Commission have published their first guidance on menopause in the workplace. The new Guidance falls short of a change to the law itself but provides useful clarification of protections under existing law which could apply to individuals in the workplace who are experiencing menopausal symptoms.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission have published their first guidance on menopause in the workplace. The new Guidance falls short of a change to the law itself but provides useful clarification of protections under existing law which could apply to individuals in the workplace who are experiencing menopausal symptoms.

Employers should consider what reasonable adjustments they can make to support individuals experiencing menopausal symptoms and to create a working environment where individuals can talk openly about their experiences and communicate their needs.

Where menopausal symptoms have a long-term and substantial impact on a worker’s ability to carry out day to day activities, this could be considered a disability under the Act. Where this is the case, employers are under a legal obligation to make reasonable adjustments for their disabled workers.

Practically, this means that employers could be susceptible to claims in the following situations:

  • A failure to accommodate those experiencing menopausal symptoms in the workplace could amount to disability discrimination.
  • Workplace policies that create disadvantage for those experiencing menopause could be considered indirect age, sex or disability discrimination.
  • Taking disciplinary action because of menopausal absence could also amount to discrimination unless it can be justified.
  • Use of language in the workplace that ridicules workers experiencing menopausal symptoms could constitute harassment relating to age, sex or disability.

To avoid this, employers should conduct robust risk-assessments of their workplaces.

Reasonable adjustments could include:

  • Promoting flexibility, such as allowing staff to work from home or vary their start and finish times.
  • Recording menopause related absences separately from other absences.
  • Relaxing or adapting uniform requirements.
  • Providing quiet rooms where staff can take breaks.
  • Consideration of room temperature and ventilation in the workplace or providing fans.

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