Ahead of World Menopause Day (18th October) employment health and safety experts WorkNest, discuss how the protection of menopausal workers should be enforced by law, to encourage all workplaces to have the right protection in place.

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Lesley Rennie, Principal Employment Solicitor at WorkNest said:  Many businesses are still not fully clued up on their obligations and ways to support staff. Our research found that nearly seven in ten line managers don’t understand the legal risks and obligations of managing staff going through menopause. In addition, almost two-thirds of employers don’t provide any menopause-specific support to employees.

The Government’s Women and Equalities Committee (WEC) has made several recommendations for reform in the workplace as it doesn’t believe the current legal framework serves or protects menopausal workers.

One of these reforms is that it wants menopause to be a protected characteristic in the Equality Act.

Making menopause a recognised protected characteristic would remove barriers and make it far easier for an employee to seek redress for any less favourable treatment. It would also impose upon employers a blanket legal duty to make reasonable adjustments.

These could include:

  • Having fans at the desks or another means of controlling temperature;

  • Better ventilation;

  • Uniforms appropriate for menopause, for example, made of breathable material;

  • Access to drinking water;

  • Adjusted working hours;

  • Working from home when symptoms are severe; and

  • Easy access to toilets and washing facilities.

It’s clear, however, that there is no political will to amend the Equality Act to introduce a new protected characteristic at present, and this is unlikely to change with the appointment of Liz Truss.

However, whilst the mechanics of bringing a claim don’t look set to change in the foreseeable future, what does appear to be changing is societal attitudes towards menopause as a natural stage in any woman’s life and an increasing expectation of support within the workplace.

Women also believe greater flexibility is one of the key things their employer could do to support them through menopause.

As such, the WEC is also backing an existing proposal in the 2019 Employment Bill that recommends that employees be given the right to request flexible working from day one, rather than having to wait six months.”

WorkNest is dedicated to helping its community feel comfortable and educated when it comes to menopause, which is why they have created a menopause hub for employers that contains blogs, videos, templates and webinars on menopause in the workplace. Find out more here.

More and more businesses need to be taking notice of the importance of having support in place for menopausal employees. Menopause is something that all women will experience at some point in their life, and their needs should be met in the workplace in the same way as any other health and safety issue would be.