Enquiry into Menopause in the Workplace Launched

The Women and Equalities Committee is running an inquiry into workplace issues surrounding the menopause.

It will consider whether further legislation is required to enable employers to have a workplace menopause policy to protect people at work going through the menopause, and how practices to address this can be implemented.

The menopause, or the time in a woman’s life when menstruation periods stop, is something that organisations may have overlooked up until now. Commonly affecting female employees at any time after they reach their mid-40s, most workplaces will have at least one employee that is going through, or has undergone, the menopause.

Whilst the menopause is not considered a disability under the Equality Act 2010, a significant factor to remember is that it can lead to the development of other issues that are. Women going through the menopause are also protected from discrimination in the workplace on the grounds of their age and sex. It is therefore critical that managers understand, even if not a legal requirement currently, how this affects their employees as the symptoms of menopause are wide-ranging and can have a real impact on health.

Physical symptoms can include, but are not limited to, hot flushes, fatigue, insomnia, and headaches. Less recognised however is that the menopause can also cause negative mental health symptoms such as mood swings, anxiety and depression. Trivialising these symptoms can lead to a significant lack of support at a time when employees need it, something that can have an extremely detrimental impact on employment relationships overall.

It remains to be seen whether the Government will decide to change the law on this issue. However, taking a positive and proactive approach to managing the menopause at work can help employers to retain valued staff, attract new talent, boost productivity, and improve staff wellbeing.

Supporting workers going through the menopause may not require any particular onerous steps to be carried out and can be, in reality, simple changes that are suitable for each employee’s circumstances.

These can include providing the ability to control the temperature in the work environment, allowing access to separate or accessible toilet facilities, avoiding tasks such as heavy lifting where employees are fatigued, and allowing uniform alternatives where applicable.

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