Bosses could be sued if ‘reasonable adjustments’ for menopausal women not made

Employers could be sued if they do not make “reasonable adjustments” for menopausal women in the workplace, the equalities watchdog has suggested.

Guidance from the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has been issued to bosses to clarify their legal obligations to women going through the menopause.

Symptoms of the menopause – which include hot flushes, brain fog and difficulty sleeping – can be considered a disability under the Equality Act 2010 if they have a “long-term and substantial impact” on a woman’s ability to carry out their usual day-to-day activities, according to the watchdog.

Bosses should consider how room temperature and ventilation affect menopausal women and think about providing rest areas or quiet rooms, as well as cooling systems or fans for women experiencing hot flushes, the guidance says.

Relaxing uniform policies or allowing menopausal women to wear cooler clothes could also be a way of helping them.

Failing to make these “reasonable adjustments” will amount to disability discrimination under the act if a worker’s menopause symptoms amount to a disability, the watchdog said.

Taking disciplinary action against a menopausal woman because of menopause-related absence from work could amount to unlawful discrimination unless it is justified, the guidance adds.

Using language that ridicules someone because of their menopausal symptoms could be harassment.

Uniform policies that disadvantage women with menopause symptoms could also amount to indirect sex, age or disability discrimination, the watchdog warns.

A video explaining the guidance says: “The costs of failing to make workplace adjustments for staff can run into hundreds of thousands of pounds when taking into account the loss of talent and costs of defending a claim.”

Research shows one in 10 women who have worked during the menopause have left their jobs due to symptoms, the watchdog said.

Two thirds of working women between the ages of 40 and 60 with experience of menopausal symptoms said they have had a mostly negative impact on them at work, it added.

“Very few” workers request workplace adjustments during this time, often citing concerns about potential reactions, the watchdog added.

It is encouraging employers to “carefully consider” the guidance available on its website and “adapt their policies and practices accordingly”.

EHRC chairwoman Baroness Kishwer Falkner said: “As Britain’s equality watchdog, we are concerned both by how many women report being forced out of a role due to their menopause-related symptoms and how many don’t feel safe enough to request the workplace adjustments.

“An employer understanding their legal duties is the foundation of equality in the workplace.

“It is clear that many may not fully understand their responsibility to protect their staff going through the menopause.

“Our new guidance sets out these legal obligations for employers and provides advice on how they can best support their staff.

“We hope that this guidance helps ensure every woman going through the menopause is treated fairly and can work in a supportive and safe environment.”

Mims Davies MP, Minister for Disabled People, Health & Work said: “Since I appointed the Government’s first ever Menopause Employment Champion almost a year ago, many businesses have come forward to engage with us and improve their workplace environment for women with menopause impact, which can be debilitating.

“The number of women in work is at a record high with two million more women in work compared to 2010, but there is still more work to do.

“Especially with women over 50 the fastest growing segment in our workforce.

“This new guidance will raise even more awareness among the business community and help women by improving understanding of their rights.

“Not only is this vital for the progression of women in the workforce, it’s vital for the growth of our economy.”

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