Over the last few years, we’ve seen increasing recognition, both within employment law and employers’ management policies, of the impact that different aspects of employees’ private lives can have on their workplace performance and the support that should be provided.
Sickness management, maternity leave and, to a lesser extent, bereavement leave are all well recognised, while the importance of helping to monitor and manage employees’ mental health has never had a higher profile.
A further issue that is continuing to gain traction is the impact of menopausal symptoms in the workplace – and with the Menopause (Support And Service) Bill scheduled for its second reading in the House of Commons at the end of October, it’s likely to move even further up the news agenda through the remainder of the year.
A 2019 survey by BUPA and the Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development found that three in five menopausal women, who were usually aged between 45 and 55, were negatively affected at work by their menopausal symptoms.
It also revealed the rather startling statistic that almost 900,000 women in the UK have left their jobs because of such symptoms.
Given the ages of those affected, it’s likely that many of these women will have been in middle or senior management positions, meaning the impact of a decision that they may have felt was forced upon them did not just impact on themselves, but also on their employers’ operations and the wider UK economy.
There is currently no legal requirement for businesses to have a menopause policy. However, we are seeing increasing numbers of employers deciding to address this issue for themselves and putting policies in place which encourage employees to have open conversations about the menopause and to seek the support they need to help manage symptoms such as hot flushes, memory loss, headaches, joint pains, depression and anxiety.
Online fashion retailer ASOS recently became the latest firm to go down this route after announcing that staff going through the menopause will be allowed to work flexibly, as well as to take time off at short notice.
Employers should be aware that, as the symptoms of menopause may have a significant impact on a person’s day-to-day activities, it can amount to a disability in some cases, affording workers protection under the Equality Act.
In addition, workers may also be able to pursue claims of age and/or sex discrimination if they believe they have been subject to less favourable treatment or harassment as a result of the menopause.
It is therefore essential that managers receive appropriate training and guidance to provide the necessary support and to consider reasonable adjustments where appropriate. For example, adjustments such as flexible working, temperature control, more frequent rest breaks or referrals to Occupational Health may be appropriate.
The Menopause Bill and this month’s World Menopause Day provide an ideal imperative for employers to consider whether their workplace policies are fit for their particular requirements, and to look at additional areas that they might want to take steps to cover.
For further information on designing, implementing and implementing workplace policies, including a Menopause Policy or training, please visit www.hay-kilner.co.uk or contact Sarah Hall on 0191 232 8345.