Is Menopause a Protected Characteristic?
Menopause has been rejected by the government as a protected characteristic under the Equality Act but this does not mean employers can simply ignore it as an issue in the workplace.
The need for employers to have appropriate, lawful and compassionate workplace policies in place is now all the more relevant.
Many businesses have specific menopause policies in place and encourage the training of managers and staff to raise awareness about the symptoms and struggles that menopausal women face in order to hopefully prevent an exodus of talent.
Menopause in the workplace
A study in 2022 by the Fawcett Society found that 1 in 10 women had left a job during menopause, whilst Research Without Barriers found that when not supported by their employers, up to one million women in the UK could be forced out of their jobs.
Had menopause been made a protected characteristic it would have made it illegal to discriminate against those experiencing menopausal symptoms.
What are protected characteristics?
They are a specific set of characteristics that make it illegal to discriminate against and include age, disability and race, amongst others.
“Whilst as employment lawyers we would have welcomed clarity on this matter and a change in legislation but going forward, business owners can help to prevent problems occurring and by having a menopause policy in place is a great starting point.”
“One thing I would say though is that this policy needs to be actioned and worked upon over time in order to mitigate the risk of employment claims at a tribunal, training and having a respectful working environment is all part of the process,” added Susan.
UK Government rejects the Menopause as a Protected Characteristic
The government rejected the proposal, warning of “unintended consequences which may inadvertently create new forms of discrimination, for example, discrimination risks towards men suffering from long-term medical conditions.”
“However, there still might be occasions when employers could find themselves facing complaints from staff going through the menopause if their symptoms are not taken seriously and so having a menopause policy backed up with the evidence of training, support and advice is always a good idea,” added Susan.
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