MPs have called for menopause to become a protected characteristic in the UK Equality Act and to include a duty for employers to provide reasonable adjustments for menopausal employees (The Guardian, 2022). The Women and Equalities Committee’s (WEC) Menopause and the Workplace report stated that employers’ failure to support women, transgender and non-binary folk experiencing menopausal symptoms was forcing “highly skilled and experienced” people out of work, with knock-on effects on the gender pay gap, pension gap, and the number of these individuals in senior leadership positions. Colin Davidson, head of employment at Edwards Duthie Shamash and co-chair of the Discrimination Law Association, stated: “The government must listen to the committee’s proposals and act immediately to make menopause a protected characteristic to prevent people from suffering harassment and discrimination at work simply for going through a natural part of their lifecycle.”

 

Research Findings

Research conducted by BUPA shows that a staggering 900,000 people experiencing menopause have left work. Additionally, the Menopause and the Workplace report highlighted the main reason that people experiencing menopause gave for choosing to leave their job included stigma, lack of support, and discrimination. It isn’t right that people feel compelled to give up work at the peak of their careers due to menopause which is an inevitable and natural part of growing old, so it is time for employers to act. Caroline Nokes, chair of the WEC, said the omission of menopause as a protected characteristic under the Equality Act was “no longer tenable, given that 51 percent of the population will experience menopause.”

Additionally, the Menopause and the Workplace report showed how menopausal symptoms affect the respondents at work as many reported a loss of ability to concentrate, increased stress, and a loss of confidence. The findings also highlighted that most people do not tell anyone at work or seek adjustments, out of concern for privacy and worrying about the reaction of others. These findings highlight the importance of organisations putting measures in place to ensure those experiencing menopause are properly supported in the workplace.  The report showed that respondents want their employers to provide them with flexible working (43%), the ability to control temperature (36%), and support with emotional wellbeing/ mental health (34%).

 

In conclusion, for too long people experiencing menopause have been faced with societal stigma, workplace detriment, and discrimination. Swift action is therefore required to ensure menopausal people feel safe and protected in their workplace and introducing menopause as a protected characteristic in the UK Equality Act is a great place to start. The WEC also calls on the government to lead the way for businesses by appointing a Menopause Ambassador who will identify good practices, produce menopause policies, and trial-specific menopause leave.