New guidance issued by an equality watchdog claims that employers could be sued for discrimination or harassment if women going through the menopause are not treated fairly and offered ‘reasonable adjustments’ in the workplace.

The Equality & Human Rights Commission (EHRC) issued new guidance on Thursday 22nd February 2024 stating that menopause symptoms could be considered a disability if they have a long-term and substantial impact on a woman’s day-to-day work activities, and hence, the Equality Act 2010 should protect women showing these symptoms.

Under the Equality Act 2010, employers have a legal obligation to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ in the workplace where this is deemed necessary, and not discriminate against workers. The new EHRC guidance claims that women going through the menopause could fall into this category. It also cautions that other employees using language which ridicules the symptoms of menopause, could be considered harassment. Typical symptoms of the menopause include anxiety, mood swings, brain fog, hot flushes and irregular periods. And the guidance suggests that ‘reasonable adjustments’ could include:

  • Providing rest areas
  • Working flexible hours
  • Relaxing restrictive uniform policies

Women leaving their jobs as a result of menopause symptoms

Alongside the guidance, the EHRC issued research findings from the Chartered Institute of Personnel Development, claiming that one in ten women surveyed had left their jobs as a result of struggling with menopause symptoms, while two thirds of women between the ages of 40 to 60 said that menopause symptoms had had a negative impact on their work lives.

An EHRC spokesperson commented that women didn’t currently feel safe to request workplace adjustments in such circumstances because they were concerned about the potential reaction and repercussions. However, employers were being urged to fully understand their legal obligations on the basis that this is the foundation of equality in the workplace. The guidance fully explains the employer’s legal obligations and how they can support staff to ensure they are treated fairly and can work within a safe and supportive environment.

The menopause is a natural part of the ageing process and is the end of the menstrual cycle when periods stop due to the lowering of hormone levels. This typically happens between the ages of 45 and 55, but women can also show symptoms earlier as a result of genetics, surgery or cancer treatment.

Contact Ison Harrison for support with menopause symptoms at work

In issuing their new guidance, the EHRC warned employers that the cost of failing to make suitable adjustments in the workplace to support female workers going through the menopause, could end up costing them hundreds of thousands of pounds, as a result of losing talent, further recruitment and the costs of defending a claim.

If you are a woman going through the menopause and you feel like you are being unfairly treated at work, or your employer is not making ‘reasonable adjustments’ to allow for your symptoms, you can contact our employment law team who can offer you compassionate and sympathetic support. We can discuss the details of your situation and establish if you have grounds to make a claim against your employer for discrimination or harassment, so get in touch today.

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