Should the menopause be a protected characteristic?

Following an inquiry which ran last year, the Women and Equalities Commission have published a report on Menopause and the workplace. It asks the UK Government to act to support menopausal women by amending the Equality Act 2010 by including the menopause as a protected characteristic.
The report found that menopause discrimination in the workplace is “widespread” and “shocking”. It highlights too, the anomaly of the different treatment of pregnancy and menopause in the workplace and wider society. 51% of the population will go through menopause which is more than will go through pregnancy, but the menopause has no protection assigned to it.
There is a raft of recent case law highlighting employer failings, largely due to managers mishandling menopausal women but this is coupled with a lack of guidance from the Health and Safety Executive or the Equality and Human Rights Commission.
Menopause-related tribunal claims to date have been brought as sex, age or disability discrimination claims but in order to successfully claim discrimination, a woman would have to demonstrate that her symptoms have a substantial and long-term adverse effect on her ability to carry out normal day to day activities. It is believed that this has prevented many women from raising a claim.
Until the Government considers the report it is not expected that any changes will occur, but employers can take proactive steps by implementing supportive policies and ensuring that managers are well trained.

121 HR Solutions has experience of drafting menopause policies and in providing training for managers – contact us on 0800 9995 121 for further information.

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