Offer menopause support or risk discrimination claims, says new guidance

The new guidance leaves little room for confusion, says Fieldfisher's employment law director - ©fizkes/Adobe Stock

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has issued new guidance on menopause for employers.

The advice laid out employers’ legal obligations, under the Equality Act 2010, to make reasonable adjustments for people experiencing menopause.

It explained that menopause could be treated as a disability if symptoms have a long-term and substantial impact on the ability to carry out daily tasks.

Employers therefore have a duty under the Equality Act 2010 to make reasonable adjustments to those experiencing menopause symptoms, as well as to assess the risk of direct and indirect discrimination across menopausal women.

According to the Fawcett Society, one in ten women have left their jobs due to symptoms of menopause but very few ask for reasonable adjustments.

Research by the CIPD in October 2023 revealed that 67% of female employees between the ages of 40 and 60 said menopausal symptoms had a mostly negative effect on them at work.

Just 24% of respondents said their organisation has a specific menopause policy or other support measures in place.

Read more: Menopause and menstruation at work guidance launched

Moira Campbell, employment law director at Fieldfisher, said the new guidance clarified existing legal protections for individuals experiencing menopausal symptoms at work.

Speaking to HR magazine, she said: “The new guidance has the potential to empower employees who may be uncertain about their legal rights by educating them on relevant laws and emboldening them to raise complaints or even pursue employment tribunal claims.”

Campbell noted that menopause does not automatically qualify as a disability under the Equality Act.

She commented: “As the new guidance makes clear, whether an individual benefits from legal protection on the grounds of disability will depend on the severity of the symptoms, which will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.”

She continued that the guidance leaves little room for employers to claim confusion around their legal obligations when it comes to supporting menopausal employees.

She said: “By adhering to the guidance, employers can potentially mitigate the risk of facing a disability discrimination complaint or claim.”

Lucy Densham Brown, employment solicitor for Clarkslegal, told HR magazine that the new guidance could make it easier for employees to raise a discrimination claim against employers if they can prove the severity of their symptoms.

She said: “The new guidance confirms that menopause could be a disability if that threshold is met.

Read more: Menopause ruled a disability in Direct Line tribunal

“It will therefore make passing this initial hurdle to bringing a claim more straightforward, as tribunals will be able to look to the guidance to confirm that, should the employee be able to show a substantial impact, menopause can be considered a disability.”

Deborah Garlick, founder and CEO of menopause platform Henpicked, which contributed to the guidelines, told HR magazine that employers should shape a bespoke menopause policy that suits their business and culture.

She said: “Firstly, they need to find out what’s getting in the way of employees being their best at work.

“A good way to break the ice and start this conversation is to arrange a talk or training from an outside speaker.

“Training managers and education for all employees is key to building empathy and understanding.

“Employers should share resources about what menopause is, its symptoms, workplace adjustments that are available and signpost who in the organisation can help support colleagues.”

The CIPD surveyed 2,185 women aged 40 to 60 between 2 May and 5 June 2023. The Menopause in the Workplace report was released in October 2023.

The Fawcett Society surveyed 4,014 women aged 45-55 in October 2021. Its own separate Menopause and the Workplace report was published in April 2022.