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Menopause discrimination at work

View profile for Kate Johnson
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Women no longer suffer in silence with menopausal symptoms, so why should they suffer discrimination at work?

For those experiencing symptoms of the menopause it can be a difficult and stressful time. Everyone will experience the menopause differently and for some, symptoms can be quite severe and can affect people both physically and mentally. There are many facilities and support groups which are available for women to use during the menopause, so why should this protection and care not extend to the workplace? 

The menopause is a natural stage of life which affects around half of the population. Menopause usually happens between 45 and 55 years of age but it can also happen earlier or later in someone's life. For many people symptoms last about 4 years, but in some cases symptoms can last a lot longer. Some people might also experience early menopause or go through surgical menopause earlier in their lives. All stages and types of the menopause are different and symptoms can vary from person to person, and range from very mild to severe.

There are 3 different stages to the menopause:• perimenopause  • menopause • postmenopause

Each may come with symptoms which may have an impact on or change the way that you perform you role. Symptom may be physical and mental such as hot flushes, night sweats which interrupt sleep resulting in fatigue, irregular periods and mood swings.

It is unlawful for your employer to treat you less favourably, discipline you or dismiss you because of your menopause or associated symptoms. This is because such actions could amount to discrimination, on the grounds of sex, age, disability or gender reassignment.  

Your line manager or supervisor ought to have received training on the importance of having those early, transparent conversations with you if you experience symptoms of the menopause and they should consider how your role and responsibilities could make your menopause symptoms harder to deal with, for example if:

• you work long shifts

• you cannot take regular toilet breaks

• your job requires restrictive clothing

• your job does not have much flexibility

Your employer should also carry out the necessary risk assessments which could include considering the workplace temperature, whether toilet facilities are easily accessible and whether cold drinking water is available. Your employer should also have a workplace policy in place on dealing with the menopause too. 

If your employer has treated you less favourably because of your menopause then you may have grounds for a claim. For example, such discriminatory conduct could be if you have been absent from work because of your menopause and you have been disciplined as a result, because your employer has failed to record this absence separately, or if your menopause causes you to be less productive and your employer invokes a disciplinary process due to your performance.  

Your employer owes you a duty of care and if you think your employer has failed you, please do get in touch for a free and confidential 30 minute consultation to discuss your options further.  Contact me on 01827 317070 or kjohnson@pickerings-solicitors.com.