In today's workforce, where one in three workers is over 50 and 80% of women aged 45 to 55 are employed, it is essential for employers to recognise and address the impact of menopause.

Many employees undergoing this natural transition report adverse effects on their work, and statistics reveal a rise in litigation concerning menopause-related issues.

In this episode, hosted by Leeanne Armstrong, legal director at TLT, we’re joined by Stephanie Reid from Menopause Spring and Louise Chopra, partner at TLT to discuss the significance of supporting employees experiencing menopause and share invaluable strategies for creating a supportive work environment including:

  • Why must employers ensure they are equipped to effectively deal with menopause in the workplace?
  • What are the expectations of menopausal individuals from their employers?
  • How can employers meet those expectations, including in terms of policy development and initiatives?
  • What were the key objectives and challenges for TLT in devising a menopause strategy in the workplace?
  • Our key takeaways for employers on addressing the impact of menopause and implementing effective strategies in the workplace.

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Whether your business is currently without a menopause strategy and considering how to get started, or would like to review and improve existing provision, our dedicated HR Consulting team, can help your business to meet their strategic objectives. Contact us for further information.

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Date published

17 July 2023

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Leanne Armstrong

Hello everyone and welcome to the TLT Employment Law podcast.  My name is Leanne Armstrong.  I'm a Legal Director in the Employment team here at the firm.  I'm delighted to be joined today by Stephanie Reid from organisation Menopause Spring and by Partner and member of TLT's Women's Equality Network, Louise Chopra for a discussion on women's health in the workplace, with a specific focus on how employers can provide support and guidance for those going through menopause.

Stephanie Reid is a menopause expert who provides training on menopause for corporates and individuals.  She has extensive knowledge on the area of menopause, both in terms of its effects and managing symptoms.

Louise Chopra is a member of Women's Equality Network here at TLT and was part of the sub-committee that helped the firm shape their menopause policy and firmwide strategies and initiatives.

When we look at the make up of the workplace, one in three workers is over the age of 50 and 80% of women between the ages of 45 and 55 are in work.  This means more employees who menstruate are going through menopause during their working lives and employers therefore need to ensure that workplaces are set up to support their specific needs during what is a normal transitionary period.

This is an area that has seen some increased profile in parliament and in the media, much to the help of some high profile names – dare I say, Davina McCall – putting their weight behind raising awareness of symptoms, impact, and available support.

And then, of course, on the parliamentary side, the House of Commons Women and Equalities Committee have been pushing for reform to provide better support and protection for those experiencing menopause at work.  They were tasked with producing a report to consider the legal framework around menopause and the workplace and they produced their report and recommendations last year.  In that report, one of the key recommendations they made was the introduction of new legislation to make menopause a standalone protected characteristic under the equality legislation.  This would mean that anyone experiencing the menopause would be automatically legally protected from discrimination, harassment and victimisation.  In its response earlier this year, the government declined to take forward that recommended reform, taking the view that existing statutory provisions provided the necessary rights and protections for persons experiencing menopause.  And the statistics would point towards women availing of the existing statutory framework to bring claims citing menopause.  Analysis by group menopause experts found that 23 employment tribunal cases in 2021 cited menopause specifically and that compared with 16 in 2020. 

And we know that in some of the reported cases in this area that there have been a number of legal decisions which have found that menopause symptoms can meet the definition of disability.  One such case in October 2021 that went to the Employment appeals tribunal, Rooney and Leicestershire City Council, found that the claimant's symptoms in that case were capable of being classed as a disability under the Equality Act.  The claimant in that case was a social worker.  She had long term and severe menopause symptoms.  For example, she suffered from severe exhaustion and memory loss and she was under the care of a specialist menopause clinic.  She successfully brought disability and sex discrimination and harassment claims.

Then in another case in the employment tribunal back in 2019, A v Bon Marche Limited, the claimant submitted claims of sex and age discrimination and harassment.  This followed complaints of bullying and abuse by her retail manager after she became menopausal.  Claims included being humiliated in front of younger staff members, being called "dinosaur", and on one occasion being criticised for failing to staple together two pieces of paper, citing it as a menopausal reason.  He also refused to adjust the temperature in the shop to take account of the claimant's requirements.  Despite raising issues with management, no action was taken.  In that case, the employment tribunal upheld claims and awarded £18,000 in compensation for injury to failings, plus loss of earnings.

The symptoms of menopause can be complex and wide ranging.  From the ones we most commonly know of like hot flushes and sweats, but then there is also brain fog, memory loss, declining mental health and sometimes quite severe sleep deprivation.  All of these can adversely affect an employee's performance at work and increase the risk of feeling isolated and unsupported. 

The presence of menopause in the workplace and the growing litigation associated with it is clear from the stats, yet research from ACAS has shown that almost one third of employers do not feel well equipped to support employees experiencing the menopause.  In addressing what is a diverse, complex and highly sensitive topic, we hope that today's discussion will provide some useful insights for our listeners both in terms of the why and the how when it comes to tackling menopause in the workplace. 

And with that, I would like to come to you first Stephanie.  Starting with the why, with the increased number of employment tribunal cases citing menopause, the government consultation on the issue, why is this, or perhaps I should rephrase it, why must it be an important issue for employers?

Stephanie Reid 

Well as you said, more and more women are now in the workplace, and, you know, the over 50 is the biggest growing demographic in the workforce so it is important that this is addressed and it is taken into consideration, and it is important for companies because, at the basis of it, it is about your retention and recruitment of employees, because it is more expensive to replace somebody.  If somebody walks out of your business and they are walking out with 20 years of experience, relationship building with clients, experience and knowledge that you pick up because you are in the workplace, you are losing all of that if they leave work and one in ten are leaving work because they are not getting supported and that is, you know, it is a really bad statistic.

Leanne Armstrong        

It is Stephanie, it is really shocking, you know, especially in the current times that we live in.  What do those going through menopause actually want from their employer in terms of support?

Stephanie Reid 

First of all, they want to be communicated to.  They want to be, you know, listened to, that is really, really important.  Women themselves want to know what is actually happening to me and what can I do to manage or alleviate my symptoms, that is really important.  So, it is a big education thing. 

The support, like, we are talking about really basic stuff, it is about having sanitary products in the toilets in the workplace when you are going through, as I said, at the beginning of your menopause your period becomes very, very irregular and that is a really big thing and that is a simple thing, and it is very cost effective just to have sanitary products in the toilet. 

Leanne Armstrong         

Thanks Stephanie.  And you have talked about the sanitary items in toilets and that is very much an easy fix and something that can be quite quick for employers to implement. 

In terms of some other examples of good initiatives and best practice in organisations, is there anything that you have seen that works particularly well that goes down well with employees as seen as being particularly supportive?

Stephanie Reid 

Having the likes of like a menopause champion in the workplace is really, really good.  If you think back to mental health even ten, fifteen years ago, it was not talked about in the workplace.  Once we started addressing that issue and putting people like mental health first aiders in the workplace that actually is a great, great support to women.  You know, having someone to go to talk to and sort of say "I am having this, could that be the menopause?" you know, I had a weird symptom, I had electric shocks.  That was not on my radar as being a menopause symptom until I actually went and saw somebody and they said, "no, that is actually a symptom and it will go away eventually".  But it is understanding what the stages are, what the symptoms are, what I can do to help alleviate and manage my symptoms, because the biggest symptoms in the workplace for women are hot flushes, of course, because that is very visible, but tiredness and fatigue really is a big one.  If you are not sleeping properly, that impacts you physically and mentally the next day.  If that accumulates that becomes really damaging.  The likes of anxiety in the workplace, the brain fog, you know I spent, as I said, you know that a year out of my life where I ran up the stairs and stood there and went "Uhm, what am I doing up here again?" because that memory fog is a really big issue and that can be really impactful in the workplace.  And again, impact your self confidence that, I can't do my job anymore because I can't remember, you know, simple things like who I am meeting this morning or where I am supposed to be.  So, it is really, really important that, you know, we give women information so they can make informed decisions. 

Leanne Armstrong    

Thanks Stephanie and Louise if I could just bring you in at this point. 

As a member of TLT's Gender Affinity Network, you were part of the subcommittee that helped to shape the menopause policy and firm strategies that we have here at TLT. 

What were the key objectives and challenges for the committee?

Louise Chopra  

I suppose, just taking a step back before talking about the aims, I think it is really important to say that, you know, the committee were fully supported and sort of given power by the firm, by TLT, to really consider this topic in conjunction with HR, because they did really recognise that this is an area that they need to support their employees on.  And I think, you know, we all know the statistics, we have heard them before, like you know, 10% of women who are suffering menopausal symptoms are leaving the workforce or potentially 12% of the employee workforce are currently experiencing symptoms, and that can really impact career progression of women in the law and as such, with that backdrop, you know, the firm were really empowering and let the committee really try and shape the initiatives in conjunction with HR as to what they can do to support their employees through this critical life period.

So, I suppose, against that sort of backdrop, there were, sort of, three clear aims here for the committee and looking at what sort of initiatives can they do to firstly help women understand what is going on and that is probably linked to a sort of taboo point that I will talk about.  Give permission to your employees to talk about it and seek out the support and talk to their peers and again, that is also linked to this, sort of, taboo of talking about the menopause, and also doing the practical, providing the right support for their workforce at that time.  So, looking at each of those aims, you know, the committee in conjunction with the relevant stakeholders, you know, they did consider, you know, what type of initiatives can they do to help their workforce understand what is happening to them.  Certainly, as I was growing up, when my mother was suffering from menopausal symptoms, it was not talked about.  I think there was quite a sort of, cloak of secrecy and whispers and no one really openly talked about it.  So, to help from a practical point of view, the firm has partnered with Bupa by offering access to menopause assessments and diagnostics, which is funded wholly by the firm which I will talk about further in more detail.  But another initiative is making sure, you know, they are given permission to talk about it.  Part of that was actually the establishment of the menopause sub-committee.  Having a committee actually focus on that is actually really important and is a point of guidance for people to refer to.  We also wanted to try and tackle the stigma and taboo associated with menopause and talking about it by, you know, identifying that line managers play a vital role in managing the health and wellbeing of their team.  So, we have introduced line manager guidance, a toolkit to support effective conversations.  You know, people are having these conversations with their line managers, we want to make sure, you know, that they are the correct, the appropriate and supportive conversations so everybody gets what they can and they need out of these types of conversations.  And then there is, sort of, other practical support that the firm has introduced.  We have introduced a menopause toolkit, there is also free access to an app called Peppy that provides a number of resources for employees to access, ranging from, sort of, nutritional to exercise-based related.

Leanne Armstrong           

And, just on that Louise, Peppy, it is not something that is unique to TLT so for our listeners, Peppy is something that they could all access and potentially promote for their own employees. 

Louise Chopra  

Yes, definitely.  It is not just for TLT employees, it is an app that can be downloaded from the various stores.  In terms of further support, and I am glad to say, you know, we have perhaps ticked one of Stephanie's checklists already.  We have got a champion network that is ensuring that the HR personnel within TLT have received specialist training to improve awareness and understanding around the menopause.  We have also had, you know, firm wide recognition of World Menopause Day and that has gathered momentum over the past couple of years with last years World Menopause Day being marked with a firm wide and client included webinar which focused on menopause nutrition and exercise.  And we have also made improvements to, sort of, our menopause policy and absence policy which reflects changes and gives appropriate language, etc.  That all helps break down, sort of, the barriers for people, or we hope it does, in actually giving them the proper support and feeling empowered to actually talk to their line manager about what they are actually going through so they are not alone, but also have the practical support needed to help manage the symptoms.

Leanne Armstrong        

Thanks Louise, and I mean you have mentioned on a number of occasions there about the taboo nature of the topic and absolutely I think we could all relate growing up to even our own relatives and family members in how menopause was considered or discussed at home, and it was very much a private matter for many.

In terms of opening up discussion about it, because obviously employee engagement is so key to being able to tackle menopause in the workplace effectively, did you find that people were willing to talk about the subject and their experiences?

Louise Chopra  

I think I would say that there is now a far greater willingness on employees to talk about such subjects.  I think certainly the World Menopause Day event that I mentioned, that sort of brought it to life for a number of employees and certainly in our office after the event there was a lot of discussion about the menopause and symptoms and comments and even a number of the, sort of, male colleagues who attended the event, you know, the fact that they actually were there in support and providing allyship to people within the office, you know, I think that has given people permission to talk about it.  Whilst I think there is still more that can be done, I think we are heading in the right direction.  People are more willing to talk about it, they are engaging and certainly with the introduction of the diagnostic testing there has certainly been an immediate impact, certainly a number of people have contacted me separately to say they would like some more information about it and talking about it and some colleagues actually commenting "Oh, I wish I had had that whilst I was going through the menopause".

Leanne Armstrong        

And just on the diagnostic testing Louise that’s something that is provided through the firm’s private medical insurance package for employees so again something that a lot of listeners might be able to look into with their own providers or with others.  But just briefly with that diagnostic testing how does it work and in terms of the benefits you have touched on it allows women or persons who are menstruating and possibly having symptoms and they are not able to quite identify what it might be it allows them to perhaps get some answers, so how does the process actually work?

Louise Chopra  

What happens is they are actually assessed by a doctor who has been specifically trained in the menopause and I think that is really, really important.  So for a staff member who is experiencing systems they would utilise their TLT’s medical insurance and arrange, as an appropriate time and assessment to take place with an appropriate menopause trained GP and if the menopause assessment is confirmed there would then be a bespoke action plan designed around their personal needs and if required there could be a prescription or a blood test or a physical exam it all really depends on the outcome of the initial assessment. 

Leanne Armstrong

Yeah and that’s something that it available to all those who are having those symptoms and perhaps for those who don’t want to openly talk about it in the workplace but this is still something they can privately access as part of their benefits.  And looking at those individuals Stephanie who maybe don’t want to talk about it so much, we know that not all of the voices on raising awareness of menopause have been positive and for some they will see this as creating a further barrier to women for progression and development in the workplace and they may be concerned that it presents them as less capable or unemployable from a certain age.  For some they would consider it, as Louise has mentioned, to be a very private matter and something that shouldn’t be discussed or brought into the workplace.  Have you got any tips or guidance for employers on how they address those concerns and this subject with the sensitivity that it requires without I suppose ignoring it altogether out of fear of upsetting somebody or getting the wrong reaction.

Stephanie Reid 

As I said it’s a transition and with targeted, with the right targeted support you don’t have to be talking about five six years of going through misery if you get the … I love what you are doing with your company, this diagnostic appointments for people is so, so important because part of the thing is am I in the menopause, am I not, is it something else, that causes worry, that causes stress, that causes anxiety and that will impact on how you do your job.  So if you can get that done quickly and get on to a treatment plan that suits you, you will get better but I d think that, as you say, have open and honest conversations, provide the support for women in the workplace and remember this is a transition, its not going to last for ever and if you get the right help at the right time it makes a massive, massive difference. 

Leanne Armstrong  

Thanks Stephanie and training on this issue must be hugely important and obviously we have talked about the employee engagement piece and perhaps they might be some who will be less comfortable to step forward and take part in those discussions but might still privately appreciate the benefits of employers being more aware and knowledgeable of the impact of menopause.  I mean in terms of education and understanding of this topic how important is it for employers, line managers, persons in the workplace, not just those who are menstruating and will go through it.  How important is it for everyone to understand and be more educated on the topic?

Stephanie Reid

It's so, so important, you know.  We provide line manager training because it's about them understanding and, as Louise said, you are responsible for the wellbeing of your team and who you manage.  So understanding all that can happen – and the fact of the matter is that some women will have quite a lot of psychological issues with this.  And that can be really, that can really impact them at work.  As I said, the likes of your brain fog, motivation can go down, anxiety can become an issue for a lot of women.  And that will impact how you work.  So, it's understanding that.  So, if a line manager is trained to recognise symptoms, to be able to have a sensitive conversation and sort of say "here is something that we can do for you".  It could be flexible working, it could be different things like if you have a workplace that has uniforms, it could be talking to them about having a look at "how is that coping for you?".  I always say if you have a uniform in your workplace, have women in their forties and fifties in the room when you are picking that uniform, because it is so, so important that it is breathable fabric, they can move in it, and it has layers. 

It can just be targeted support for that individual.  You're having difficulty sleeping, you're starting your treatment.  Again, treatment mightn't kick in for maybe a month, six weeks, two months if you're on HRT, before you will see a difference.  So maybe look at saying "we'll look at giving you flexible working for the next two to three months or working from home some days a week to help you with that.  That could be all that person needs.  Just a couple of months to get them over the initial – getting their treatment sorted out, maybe getting their sleep sorted out, and that's all they'll need.

Leanne Armstrong       

Yeah, and of course we know that no two people go through the same menopause journey.  It looks so different for so many different people and that's why we do really need to have open minded understanding and a well-informed approach to the discussion really, from all involved.

I just want to thank you both for attending today and taking part in this discussion which by no means is the end of the story.  The discussion will continue to rumble on and I think it will only become bigger and more important in employer organisations.

In terms of summarising the key takeaways, firstly, communication is key here.  It's creating an environment where menopausal employees feel comfortable and able to seek the support and the adjustments, they need to manage their symptoms.  Secondly, education and training will better equip your business and line managers to effectively support menopausal employees and to tackle related workplace issues in the right way.  Menopause champions, as you've both mentioned, are worthwhile in an organisation and they will provide employees with a dedicated point of contact for support if it's needed.  And certainly, this was one of the recommendations the government supported from the Women And Equalities Committee Report.  Thirdly, if you don't already have one, implement a menopause policy.  I think you'd both agree that that needs to be up there on the list.  And there are lots of fantastic toolkits out there, CIPD and other organisations who provide access to toolkits to help employers start their journey in the creation of a menopause policy.  And I suppose in that policy as well, it's important to make sure it's accessible to all and that it's subject to regular evaluation and review.  And then fourthly, look to the resources you already have.  Stephanie, I know you mentioned that some of these things are easy fixes, there are solutions that are already at your fingertips and consider how they might help.  So, for example, we've talked about private medical insurance – can your provider offer more help?  Are there additional services they might be able to offer at no additional cost to the employer?  And I suppose then finally, there's no "one size fits all" approach to menopause.  Each person's journey will look different in terms of the type and severity of symptoms and duration.  Take care then as an employer to be adaptable and flexible in the support offered to employees and for some workplace adjustments it may be necessary for some.  For some others it won't be and they'll self-manage their symptoms.  But for others, the workplace adjustments will be vital to ensuring their continued and valuable contribution.

I want to thank you for both for your time today and to thank our listeners for tuning in.  I hope you found today's episode useful.  If you enjoyed the podcast, please rate and review us on your podcast app.  Email us at with any feedback or questions or any ideas for future episodes – we'd love to hear from you.

You can also follow us on Twitter @TLT_Employment.

Thanks for listening – bye


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