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Employers – Meno-pause for thought

 

What is the news?

CIPD, the professional body for HR and people development, has reported that 59% of working women aged 45 to 55 experiencing menopause symptoms say it has a negative impact on them at work.

What does the news mean?

As a result of these findings, CIPD has launched free guidance on managing menopause at work. Their aim is to break the silence of this longstanding workplace taboo and instead to treat menopause like any other health condition. Their tips to support female employees who are experiencing the symptoms of menopause include:

  • Providing a desk fan to help with hot flushes (72% in their survey of 1,409 women reported hot flushes)
  • Giving women a later start time if their sleeping pattern is disturbed (64% reported sleep disturbances and 58% reported night sweats)
  • Making sure women can take regular comfort breaks and allowing them to adapt their uniform to improve comfort levels

What do we think of the news?

It is positive to finally see an open discussion on the difficulties millions of women are facing whilst at work and for another “taboo” subject to be put in an open forum. It is also great to see that the government is on board with this too. In reality, however, adopting such guidance is not mandatory for employers and the costs involved in implementing measures may be too much of a burden for smaller employers. It may be useful for these small businesses to consider the long-term basis of this issue – the smallest of steps, such as offering comfort breaks, will go a long way in making employees feel more comfortable at work and could result in a reduction in sick leave (30% of the women surveyed said they had taken sick leave because of their symptoms with only a quarter feeling able to tell their manager the real reason for their absence).

From a strictly legal perspective, employers should be alert to the fact that an extreme case of menopause could fall within the definition of “disability” under the Equality Act and there are potentially indirect and direct sex and/or age discrimination issues too. Disability will all depend on whether it can be found that the menopause has a substantial and long-term effect on an individual’s ability to carry out normal daily activities (which it could, given it can continue for many years). If it does, an employer will have the duty to make reasonable adjustments, of which the above tips could assist.

Overall, taking steps now, being proactive instead of reactive, will lead to happier employees and a more content workforce.

If you would like to talk through any concerns you may have in relation to the above content, you can contact Solicitor, Heena Kapadi on T: 0161 358 0540 or E: heenakapadi@hrclaw.co.uk or Associate, Siobhan Howard-Palmer on T: 0161 358 0537 or E: siobhanhoward-palmer@hrclaw.co.uk.

This contains a general overview of information only. It does not constitute, and should not be relied upon, as legal advice. You should consult a suitably qualified lawyer on any specific legal problem or matter.