The menopause: HR guide
Employers need to understand the menopause and the different effects that it can have on women.
With employment rates of women over 50 increasing dramatically in recent decades, it’s clear that the menopause is an important workplace issue.
What is the menopause and its effects?
The menopause is defined as when a woman permanently stops having periods.
According to the NHS website, the menopause usually occurs between the age of 45 and 55 and the average age for the menopause is 51.
Symptoms could include, for example, hot flushes, difficulties in sleeping, low mood or anxiety and problems with concentration or memory.
About 80% of women experience some symptoms of the menopause and 20% of these women experience severe symptoms.
Women who suffer from the symptoms of the menopause could in certain severe cases fall within disability discrimination protection.
To fall within scope a person would have to have a physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on their ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities. Long-term means that the adverse effect has lasted more than one year or is likely to last more than one year. Normal day-to-day activities could include concentration.
Where a person comes within the definition, an employer must not discriminate which would include having to comply with the duty to make reasonable adjustments.
Where an employer, for instance, fails to take into account the menopause on a woman’s work performance an employer could potentially be discriminating against because of sex. A key question would be whether the employer would have treated a man suffering from similar symptoms differently.
Women suffering from the menopause who are treated badly by their employer could have other claims, such as for age discrimination. A related dismissal could be unfair too.
Irrespective of employers’ legal obligations, there are good reasons why employers should recognise the menopause at work. Taking the issue seriously will help boost productivity and performance and help retain staff. Steps that employers should consider taking include:
- Having a menopause policy which is communicated to staff.
- Creating an open environment where women are comfortable about discussing the menopause with their line managers.
- Offering an alternative option for discussing concerns.
- Making reasonable adjustments in particular cases such as allowing time off work and changing performance targets.
- Providing occupational health support.
- Offering flexible working.
- Providing fans and cold water.
This guide is intended for guidance only and should not be relied upon for specific advice.
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