Menopause policy – do you need one?
With more women over 50 in employment, Ami Naru, Partner Head of Employment at Travlaw, thinks it's time for employers to put menopause policies into place
Women working while going through the menopause is not in itself a new phenomena. That said, there are now increased rates of employment among women aged 50 and over, meaning that more women than ever before will experience menopause transition during their working life.
Figures released by the UK Government in 2022 show that the employment rate for people aged 50 to 64 has increased from 57.2% in 1995 to 72.5% in 2019. For women aged 50 to 64 in particular, separate figures show that the employment rate has increased from 46.9% in 1992 to 66.3% in 2023.
“Menopause-related employment claims can therefore be complex, time consuming and expensive to defend”
Consequently, more people than ever before are experiencing menopause during their working lives. The working population is getting older and there are more women in the workplace. It’s as simple as that!
The UK Government has confirmed that it does not intend to make any menopause-related changes to the Equality Act 2010, including making menopause a protected characteristic. Therefore whilst ‘menopause’ in itself is not a protected characteristic, a woman treated less favourably because of her menopause symptoms could suffer discrimination on the grounds of age, disability and/or sex, all of which are protected characteristics.
Also, trans people experiencing menopause symptoms may be able to bring discrimination claims based on the protected characteristic of gender reassignment.
“Everyone will experience menopause differently and that the effects can be both physical and mental”
Menopause discrimination claims can be complicated, because several protected characteristics may need to be considered. Based on a single set of facts, claimants often bring more than one type of discrimination complaint relating to more than one protected characteristic. Menopause-related employment claims can therefore be complex, time consuming and expensive to defend.
It is also worth pointing out that, there is no cap on the amount of compensation that an employment tribunal can award in a discrimination claim. If an employer has therefore discriminated against an employee in a menopause context, the compensation award could be very costly.
Employers also have ongoing duties under the Health & Safety at Work act 1974 which obliges employers to, where reasonably practical, ensure everyone’s health, safety and welfare at work. Aside from the legal considerations, managing the effects of the menopause can be beneficial for both the employer and the employee. It is also worth remembering that everyone will experience menopause differently and that the effects can be both physical and mental.
Moving forward, I expect menopause policies to appear as routine as other such policies in staff handbooks, but for now we are not quite there yet.
However, there does appear to be a real change and appetite by some employers to help women transition through the menopause by introducing workplace policies and I would encourage employers in the travel industry to do the same.
ACAS has also produced guidance on menopause in the workplace.
Ami Naru is Partner Head of Employment at Travlaw