Written by Kate Hindmarch, partner in employment law at Langleys Solicitors
The ONS has highlighted that women in their 40s and 50s (the age group that is most affected by menopause) is the fastest growing workforce demographic. According to the Faculty of Occupational Medicine, nearly eight out of 10 of menopausal women are in work and three out of four women experience symptoms.
Research shows that some women struggle to find work, some consider their careers are affected and some claim to have lost their jobs as a result. Many women report increased absence related to menopause, although they may not want to disclose that as the reason. Menopause symptoms can have a significant impact on attendance and performance in the workplace.
Kate Hindmarch, partner in employment law at Langleys Solicitors says: “
“Of the 70% of women in employment in the UK, almost 4.5 million are in the menopausal age bracket. An increasing number of women are taking their employers to court and citing the menopause as proof of unfair dismissal and/or sex or disability discrimination.
“Menopause at work is covered by certain pieces of legislation to protect employees. Under the Equality Act of 2010, menopause is covered under the protected characteristics of age, sex and disability discrimination.
“Therefore, if a worker or job applicant feels they have been treated unfairly, they may be able to make a claim to an employment tribunal. According to the latest UK data, there have been 10 employment tribunals referencing the claimant’s menopause in the first six months of 2021 alone.
“The claim must be made within three months (minus one day) of the act or acts of discrimination about which they are complaining. However, it is recommended that the employee talks to their employer and acas before doing this to try to resolve the matter informally without going to a tribunal, as this can be very costly.
“The average cost of defending a tribunal case is £8,500 which doesn’t include the cost of any awards or the claimant’s legal fees, if won. Compensation under the Equality Act is uncapped meaning that employers can claim for loss of earnings, loss of pensions and issue proceedings against individuals in the workplace, who could have personal liability for any compensation awarded. This type of case can damage an employer’s standing in terms of being a good and reasonable employer and supporting the health and wellbeing of all employees – not just women.
“There are measures that employers should take to assist employees who may be experiencing menopause at work to avoid Tribunal proceedings. For example, employers should carefully manage sickness absence or declining job performance to avoid the chances of a discrimination claim and make changes to allow workers to manage their symptoms, such as providing a fan, longer breaks or flexible working. Longer term, it may be helpful to review and amend an employee’s role or duties, such as facilitating part-time working or switching to a job share.
“Employers should also ensure that managers are trained in dealing with menopause-related issues and that staff feel that they are able to discuss such issues openly with their managers or HR, through sensitively managed and confidential conversations. This is particularly important in male-dominated industries as there is a lack of awareness among male managers.”