Menopause in the workplace: employer guidance
The menopause is a natural stage of life that is usually experienced by women between 45 and 55 years of age. However, some women can experience the menopause before 40 years of age. Most women will experience menopausal symptoms. Some of these symptoms, which may be physical, psychological and emotional, can be quite severe and have a significant impact on every day activities.
Why employers should consider menopause in the workplace?
Employers have a legal duty of care to their employees under health and safety law and must ensure menopausal symptoms are not made worse by workplace conditions and/or work practices. Employers must also make reasonable adjustments to help employees manage their symptoms when doing their job. See employers’ health and safety responsibilities.
Statutory equality law does not expressly provide protection for menopause, but as the menopause is a female condition, any detrimental treatment of a woman related to the menopause could represent direct or indirect sex discrimination. If a woman experiences serious symptoms from the menopause transition that amount to a mental or physical impairment, which has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on her ability to carry out day-to-day activities, this could be classed as a disability under the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (as amended for Northern Ireland). Failure to make reasonable adjustments could lead to a discrimination claim. See prevent discrimination and value diversity.
It also makes good business sense to try to understand and accommodate the needs of staff experiencing menopausal symptoms. An employer who does this is likely to gain greater staff loyalty, lower absenteeism rates and higher productivity. It will also help you retain valuable talent.
Recognising and addressing menopause in the workplace
There are a number of actions that you can take to support employees affected by menopause. These include:
- Review current employment policies and procedures - to determine if there are adjustments you could make to support staff affected with menopausal symptoms. Developing a workplace wellbeing policy that recognises the menopause and actively involving staff in the development process is a good starting point.
- Risk assessment - carry out a risk assessment that considers the specific needs of menopausal women. This will fulfil your legal responsibility for health and safety and also ensure an employee’s symptoms aren’t being exacerbated by their job. See health and safety risk assessment.
- Raise menopause awareness - break the stigma by raising awareness of the menopause within the workplace that will encourage openness in challenging negative and stereotypical attitudes. Information and education about the menopause should be included as part of the organisation’s diversity and inclusion training for the whole workforce.
- Communication - have regular and informal one-to-one meetings with staff as this can provide the opportunity for someone to raise changes in their health situation including the menopause. Employers should communicate their positive attitude towards the menopause so that all employees know that their employer is supportive of the issue.
- Support from senior management - get buy-in and support from senior management in your organisation. This will help raise awareness and develop positive attitudes towards the menopause. Senior management support can also facilitate an open, inclusive and supportive culture.
- Identify appropriate adjustments - some adjustments you could make would be considering shift patterns, offering flexible working, making sanitary products available in washrooms or having temperature controlled areas. Remember that each individual can be affected differently so you should always tailor any adjustments to an individual’s specific needs.
- Training - provide line managers with effective training so they have a broad understanding of how menopausal symptoms can affect employee’s interaction with work and give them the tools to be able to support staff affected by menopause. Extending training to all staff can help raise menopause awareness across the organisation.
- Performance management - there should never be assumptions about how an individual’s performance has been impacted but it should be recognised that women can experience a wide range of uncomfortable symptoms that can pose a challenge to their daily lives including at work. Performance management should be a positive process and the focus must be on the support needed to help everyone perform to the best of their ability, including taking on board any underlying health issues.
Menopause guidance for employers
The Irish Congress of Trade Unions, the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland and the Labour Relations Agency have produced guidance for employers, employees and trade union representatives to help promote equality in employment for women affected by menopause.
The guidance includes:
- information on menopause in terms of staff health and safety
- equality considerations for employers
- checklist to help employers examine if current policies and procedures meet the needs of women with menopausal symptoms
- best practice examples from local organisations implementing menopause policies
- tribunal decisions related to menopause
- links to further advice and guidance
The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) also has guidance on the menopause at work: guidance for people professionals.
LRA Workplace Information Service03300 555 300
Equality Commission Employer Helpline028 90 500 600