New EHRC guidance on menopause in the workplace: what can employers do?

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (“EHRC”) have recently published guidance for employers which is designed to help employers understand their legal obligations in supporting workers experiencing menopausal symptoms.  

Menopause symptoms can have a significant impact on women at work, with research finding that 67% of working women between the ages of 40 and 60 who are experiencing menopausal symptoms said that they had mostly a negative impact on them at work, for example they were unable to concentrate; experienced more stress or felt less physically able to carry out work tasks.

Legal obligations

Under the Equality Act 2010 (“EA 2010”), employers have specific legal obligations not to discriminate against workers, including on grounds of age, sex, and disability. In addition, an employer has a duty to consider and make reasonable adjustments for workers who are disabled.

If menopause symptoms meet the definition of a disability under the EA 2010, namely “a physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on a person’s ability to carry out day to day activities” it may be considered to be a disability.

In such cases, it is important that employers consider and make reasonable adjustments for those affected workers. Those employers who don’t consider making reasonable adjustments, or discriminate against women as a result of their menopause, face potential employment tribunal claims. The guidance also warns employers of taking disciplinary action against women who are affected by menopause by applying policies which could be indirectly discriminatory.

What can employers do?

  • Raise Awareness: Employers are encouraged to educate managers and staff about menopause and its effects. It’s important that all members of staff understand the impact that the menopause can have on women and women experiencing the menopause are reminded of the support available to them.
  • Communication: Encourage employees to be open about their needs. Fostering open conversations can reduce the stigma and create a safe place where women may feel more willing to approach managers about any concerns they have and ask for adjustments. Employers could look to introduce Menopause Champions, who are trained designated individuals within the workplace who can provide support to their colleagues, or employers could provide safe spaces for women in the workplace to discuss their experiences together as a supportive network.
  • Reasonable Adjustments: Employers should identify individual needs and provide appropriate adjustments. The EHRC guidance suggests that possible adjustments could include flexible working hours, providing rest areas, modifying workloads, managing the temperature within the workplace, recording menopause related absences separately to other absences, and/or relaxing uniform requirements. 
  • Training: Train managers and senior employees to recognise menopause symptoms and respond empathetically and support women who are affected by menopause.  It’s important that managers and senior employees also understand an employer’s obligations under the EA 2010 and the potential ramifications.
  • Policy Review: Review existing policies to ensure they address menopause-related issues and consider including menopause-specific provisions or policies which provides guidance and support available.
  • Risk Assessment – Employers are under an obligation to conduct an assessment of their workplace risks, as part of this it may be good practice to consider ventilation and workplace temperature.

Supporting menopause within the workplace benefits both workers and employers. By understanding legal obligations and implementing practical measures, organisations can create an inclusive environment where women feel valued and empowered, which will ensure that more women remain within the workplace.