Employment tribunal cases citing menopause as the cause of discriminatory treatment or dismissal are on the rise. While the most common complaints of discrimination have previously been based on sex or age – including harassment – we are seeing an increase in the number of claims for disability discrimination. It is important to note that whilst menopause is not a disability, the symptoms can amount to a disability in some cases.
Managers with limited understanding of the condition are increasingly being called out for inappropriate and insensitive behaviour when it comes to managing staff suffering from the symptoms of menopause and it’s important that employers understand the risks of poor management.
Those of typical menopause age, between 45 and 55, are the biggest growing demographic in the workforce. Of the 72% of women in employment in the UK, almost 4.5m are in this age bracket. One in 10 menopausal women say they have left work and one in four state they have considered leaving work because of their symptoms and the lack of support at work.
Many report that they would not feel comfortable discussing their symptoms with their manager and others report decreased performance and lack of confidence – foregoing promotion opportunities for fear of failure.
The solution isn’t complicated – if women feel supported by their employers through the menopause, with adjustments being made where needed, they will be more likely to stay in the workplace and achieve their full potential.
Employers will also retain valuable and highly experienced employees, so it’s a win-win situation. Despite this, many employers are continuing to ignore the issue and with tribunal cases citing menopause as the cause of discrimination on the rise, it’s a risky approach to take.
What can employers do?
- Education: train and upskill your managers and workforce on the topic
- Myth-busting: encourage open conversations
- Promote an understanding work culture
- Consider a menopause policy if appropriate for your workplace
- Consider peer support groups and/or regular drop in sessions for the workforce
- Make reasonable adjustments
What are the risks if employers fail to manage menopause effectively?
Employees who are not supported at work may call in sick, sometimes for long periods of time. This has an impact on productivity and a potentially negative effect on colleagues having to pick up additional work. Furthermore, as referenced above, many employees experiencing symptoms of the menopause whilst feeling unsupported, choose to leave the workplace, resulting in a loss of valuable talent and experience. There is also a risk of employment tribunal claims which can be costly, both to defend and paying out any successful compensation claims.