The number of menopause claims in the Employment Tribunal has increased threefold in the last three years. Menopause is not a stand-alone protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010; however, depending on the facts of the case, a menopausal worker may be protected on the grounds of sex, age or disability. It is the latter characteristic that is most commonly relied upon.
What the law says
There are 34 recognised symptoms of menopause and someone suffering from these symptoms could be disabled under the Equality Act if the impairment is deemed to have a substantial adverse effect on someone’s ability to do normal day to day activities and the effect is long term. For example, difficulties with concentration, memory and fatigue were found to ‘inevitably impact on the claimant’s ability to do many tasks throughout the day’ in a recent Employment Tribunal decision.
In Rooney v Leicester City Council, Ms Rooney had been suffering from severe and long lasting menopausal symptoms that included hot flushes and sweating, palpitations and anxiety, night sweats and sleep disturbance, fatigue, poor concentration, urinary problems and headaches. The Employment Appeal Tribunal found the Employment Tribunal had been wrong to hold that Ms Rooney’s menopausal symptoms could not amount to a disability.
What can employers do?
Employers should aim to have a supportive work environment and ensure managers, mental health first aiders, and the workforce more generally are educated about the effects of the menopause. Raising awareness and educating others will help people to feel supported and will open up conversations on the topic.
Employers could consider having a Menopause Policy to set out their commitment to supporting employees experiencing the menopause. Where employees are suffering from menopausal symptoms, employers may benefit from seeking occupational health advice to understand the impact of the symptoms on the employee’s ability to do their role, and whether any adjustments could reasonably be made. For example, employers could consider being more flexible about start and finish times for those who are suffering from symptoms affecting sleep and concentration.
For more information on menopause in the workplace please contact a member of the Employment Team.