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How HR can prevent menopausal discrimination

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Almost a million women in the UK have left jobs because menopause symptoms and an inquiry has been launched to understand if workplace discrimination is taking place. In the meantime, what can HR do to provide better support for the menopause?

Due to the large proportion of women leaving the workforce last Friday (23 July), the cross-party Women and Equalities Committee launched an inquiry to scrutinise existing legislation and workplace practices around the menopause and the impact it is having on gender equality.

According to committee chair, Caroline Nokes, three in every five women are negatively affected at work as a result of the menopause, and it is having a knock-on impact on the number of women in senior positions, as well as the gender pay gap.

She explained: “The repercussions of that are not merely individual. Excluding menopausal women from the workplace is detrimental to our economy, our society and our place on the world stage.

"Despite the fact that hundreds of thousands of women in the UK are currently going through the menopause, a process that can be both physically and mentally draining, it is ignored in legislation."

In its inquiry the committee seeks to uncover the nature of menopause discrimination, review whether existing legislation needs to change, and consider the difficulties of going through menopause faced by those who do not identify as women.

It is currently calling for evidence from organisations and individuals about the way things are currently done.

In addition to potentially providing evidence on menopause in the workplace, here's what HR can do to improve the experience and opportunities afforded to those going through the menopause.

 

Introduce a menopause policy

Existing legislation protects people from discrimination based on sex, age and disability, but several calls have been made for further measures, including introduction of menopause policies.

Here's an idea of what to include in menopause policy:

Menopause: where legislation fails employers can step in

Supporting employees through the menopause

 

Tackle stigma

A 2021 report by Vodaphone found that half (50%) of women in the UK going through the menopause feel there is a stigma attached to talking about it at work, prompting a third (33%) to hide how they’re feeling.

Part of the solution for HR may also be in creating more open conversations around employee health:

Talking about menopause in the workplace should be the norm

My experience of working with the menopause

Is 2021 finally the year women can discuss menopause in the workplace?

 

Make reasonable adjustments

Employers have also been urged to make reasonable adjustments, such as more flexible hours, to help menopausal staff. How this is done will depend on the workplace and culture, but here's a few tips:

Five steps to improve menopause support

MPs say employers should support menopausal women

Is flexible working for menopausal women a step too far?