In the third and final part of our three-part series of Insights on menopause and work, we provide some tips on how to ensure that people transitioning through the menopause are supported and protected at work. We then look at what’s on the horizon in relation to menopause, in terms of likely future legal and policy reforms.
Practical tips and best practice
The following are some examples of good practice and tips which employers may wish to consider.
- Introducing a menopause policy (see part 1 of our series of insights on menopause and work). This is really a baseline requirement and we would always recommend implementing a policy; Acas advice on menopause at work also recommends employers have a menopause policy. It shows an employer’s commitment to tackling the challenges menopause can create for employees, and promotes a corporate culture that supports and empowers people transitioning through the menopause to discuss their physical and mental symptoms at work.
- Ensuring that absence policies specifically reference the menopause and menopause symptoms, and that any menopause policy intersects with general equalities policies.
- A paper policy also needs to be actively implemented, ideally with visible support from senior leadership.
- Training and talks: whether in the form of webinars or in-person training, or from internal experts or external speakers. Training could include information about menopause and women’s health , information about HRT and / or information about the company’s menopause policy and why it’s important to support employees experiencing the menopause.
- Providing guides and / or training for managers on how to have sympathetic and effective conversations with colleagues about menopause concerns.
- Gathering information in a ‘Menopause Hub’ so that employees can access information about policies, procedures, support, online training, symptom checkers and guides. Hubs may also signpost links to external resources.
- Informal weekly or monthly ‘huddles’, drops-ins or catch-ups – whether in person or online - as a way to bring interested colleagues together in an informal way to talk about menopause. These sessions could include topics as diverse as fitness and health, dealing with brain fog, issues around libido and anxiety coping strategies.
- Menopause awareness / education using video chats or recorded Q&A style interviews with employees who have experienced the menopause, sharing their first-hand experiences.
- Appointing trained ‘menopause champions’ to provide support and signpost information to those experiencing symptoms and raise the profile of menopause support at work.
- Establishing Menopause Networks.
- Setting up a dedicated MS Teams channel for menopause related discussion and information.
- Some larger employers have developed menopause apps, providing support and access to medical advice for employees if they experience symptoms.
- Undertaking gender specific risk assessments to help inform small practical adjustments that will promote the health, safety and well-being (physical and mental) of an employee going through menopause.
- Employers will only be legally obliged to make reasonable adjustments to working arrangement if an employee’s menopause symptoms are so severe that they are disabling, as defined under the Equality Act 2010. However, adjustments that employers may wish to consider, regardless of whether or not symptoms amount to a disability, could include the following:
- Ensuring that uniforms are made out of breathable materials, and enabling employees to order additional sets without having to provide a reason.
- Allowing employees to order desk fans, whether for working in the office or at home.
- Allowing extra toilet breaks for employees experiencing menopause symptoms.
- Ensuring easy access to cold drinking water.
- Adjusting existing workplace policies and procedures. For example, a dress code policy may be challenging for someone experiencing menopause symptoms, and allowing more flexibility on clothing could make a big difference to their comfort at work. The strict application of procedures to address poor performance or sickness absence could adversely impact employees experiencing symptoms such as anxiety and depression, brain fog and/or memory loss. Adjustments to workload, deadlines or absence management triggers could address the impact.
- Signing the Menopause Workplace Pledge. This campaign is calling on every employer to take the Menopause Workplace Pledge and commit to providing menopause support. In signing the Pledge, employers have committed to:
• recognising that the menopause can be an issue in the workplace and women need support;
• talking openly, positively and respectfully about the menopause; and
• actively supporting and informing employees affected by the menopause.
Over 1000 employers including the BBC, AstraZeneca, Royal Mail, Co-op Group, Tesco, John Lewis and Metro Bank and many hospitals, schools, universities, and other organisations have signed up.
Planning ahead: what’s on the horizon?
Government policy and equalities legislation
The UK government has prioritised menopause support as part of its Women's Health Plan, and the government has established a specific "Menopause Taskforce". Made up of ministers and clinicians from across the UK, the Taskforce first met in February 2022 to set out its aims of tackling the broad issues surrounding the menopause, such as ensuring treatments are accessible, reducing ongoing stigma associated with symptoms and improving support networks, both in and out of the workplace.
These goals align with the publication of a government commissioned report in November 2021, which made ten recommendations for providing better support and protection for people experiencing the menopause. In response, the government published a policy paper on 18 July 2022: Menopause and the Workplace: how to enable fulfilling working lives.
The government’s July 2022 policy paper confirmed that it will not change the Equality Act 2010 to enable intersectional, multiple discrimination claims to be recognised. The government’s view is that the existing employment law framework already provides sufficient protections for people experiencing the menopause. The government’s July 2022 policy paper does confirm that menopause will be a priority issue for government. However, it will not be making it mandatory for employers to put in place workplace support via Employee Assistance Programmes or appoint a ‘menopause champion’ (although the government is supportive of these initiatives).
Health and safety reforms
As outlined above, employers have a general duty to ensure the health, safety and welfare of employees at work. A recent discussion as part of a House of Commons Women and Equalities Committee session went further and covered the potential for mandatory risk assessments covering menopause; this might need to cover general workplace factors such as temperature controls, rest areas and access to drinking water.
Making flexible working the default
Menopause action groups have recommended that the government should make flexible work the default, and this was put forward as a proposal in the Conservative Party’s 2019 manifesto. However, the government has since announced that it intends to introduce a slightly watered-down version of that proposal: it will make the right to request flexible a ‘day one’ right, rather than a right which only arises after 26 weeks’ service. However, legislation implementing this reform was not included in the May 2022 Queen’s Speech. We do not yet know when this legislation will be introduced.
Menopause and the workplace inquiry
In July 2021, the House of Commons Women and Equalities Committee launched an inquiry into workplace issues surrounding the menopause. The inquiry was asked to address the following:
- Examine existing discrimination legislation and workplace practices, to consider whether enough is being done to prevent women from leaving their jobs as a result of menopausal symptoms, or suffering other adverse consequences.
- Draw up recommendations with a view to shaping policies to address gender equality. These include the nature and the extent of discrimination faced by women experiencing the menopause and the impact on wider society, the economic impact of menopause discrimination, how businesses factor in the needs of employees affected, and how practices addressing workplace discrimination relating to menopause can be implemented.
- Consider whether further legislation is required to enable employers to put in place a workplace menopause policy to protect people going through the menopause while at work.
The inquiry is no longer accepting evidence. Its findings are awaited but there is no date for publication yet.
- ACAS, Managing the effects of the menopause, Date unknown
- Business in the Community, Menopause in the workplace, June 2020
- CIPD, A guide to managing menopause at work: guidance for line managers, May 202
- Fawcett Society, Menopause and the workplace, 5 May 2022
- House of Commons Women and Equalities Committee, Menopause and the workplace survey results, 23 February 202
- Menopause Workplace Pledge, Sign the Menopause Workplace Pledge - Wellbeing of Women
- Online Menopause Centre, The annual menopause report 2021: gaining a better understanding of the menopause and perimenopause health in the UK, July 2021
- Standard Chartered and Financial Services Skills Commission, Menopause in the workplace: impact on women in financial services, October 2021
- TLT, Fawcett report raises an urgent call to action for employers to address menopause in the workplace, 21 June 2022
- TUC, Menopause and the workplace, 21 December 2021
- Women in Hospitality, Travel & Leisure, The impact of menopause in the workplace in HTL, 20 October 2021
- Part 1 our of series on the scale of the issue
- Part 2 of our series on the legal framework
Throughout this Briefing we use the terms ‘woman/women’ with reference to menopause but note that our comments apply equally to trans, intersex and non-binary people experiencing menopause symptoms. This publication is intended for general guidance and represents our understanding of the relevant law and practice as at October 2022. Specific advice should be sought for specific cases. For more information see our terms & conditions.