Women’s health and the workplace

Menopausal women are one of the fastest-growing demographics in the workforce, it’s important for employers to not only understand the impact menopause can have on their employees but how to support them.

Is Menopause The 10th Protected Characteristic?

Under The Equality Act 2010 there are 9 protected characteristics, which are:

  • Age
  • Disability
  • Gender Reassignment
  • Marriage/ Civil partnership
  • Pregnancy & maternity
  • Race
  • Religion
  • Sex
  • Sexual orientation

These characteristics are designed to stop discrimination in the workplace, and to offer greater protection to those who could be unfairly treated as a result of those characteristics.

In recent years there have been calls for menopause to be added to the protected characteristics list, and in the past employers’ lack of support has caused highly skilled women to be pushed out of the workplace.  It raised so much support that it was discussed in parliament, but the government ultimately rejected the idea, stating that, ‘While we support the aim of ensuring that women are not discriminated against because of menopause, existing protected characteristics of sex, age and disability already provide this protection.’ Employers therefore need to be aware of their responsibilities, as women affected by the Menopause could require support, reasonable adjustments etc and an employer that does not act, could be at risk of a discrimination claim. This article provides some areas for consideration.

Menopause Symptoms That Can Affect Work

While menopause is a private health issue, it’s one that can easily impact the performance of even your best employees. In fact, a survey by the British Menopause Society, reports 45% of women felt that menopausal symptoms had a negative impact on their work. Just a few ways menopause can affect employees include:

  • Poor concentration
  • Brain fog and poor processing skills
  • Tiredness
  • Poor memory
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Low Confidence
  • Hot flushes

All of these things can cause women to feel they need to hide their symptoms and can even make them feel like they need to leave their job.

Managing Employees Going Through Menopause

As an employer, an employee going through menopause is a health and wellbeing matter, and needs to be handled sensitively. More importantly, you need to remember that the menopause and its symptoms can affect staff at any time, and that your response can be pivotal in their comfort and continued good performance.

For starters, you cannot assume that an employee going through menopause will continue to perform at the same level they always have. This is where investing time and energy into building relationships between employees and managers can be key, as this makes it easier for employees to feel comfortable about raising a health issue. It’s also important to have some sort of framework or policy in place for menopause transition and ensure managers understand what it is and their duty within it.

Before immediately challenging poor performance consider putting systems in place that let employees know they will be supported. Provide information and guidance where you can, along with safe spaces to have discussions.

We know that talking openly about menopause can make some employers uncomfortable, but it is a real employment issue, and one that should be taken seriously. At Guildford HR it’s our job to ensure employer’s understand their rights and obligations under the law, as well as how to manage their teams with compassion. If you’re not sure what your next step is, you can purchase our menopause policy for your business, or get in touch to book your free consultation with one of our experts.

References

  • People Management
  • NHS
  • ACAS
  • Equality and Human Rights Commission