Menopause and the workplace
This year, a topic at the forefront for many is menopause and the workplace.
The structure of the workplace has changed dramatically in the last 50 years. Women between the ages of 40 and 55 are currently the fastest growing demographic in the workplace. In 2022, one in six workers will be a woman aged 50 or over – many of them at a senior level.
Menopause is getting increased media coverage and in October 2021 was debated in the House of Commons. Employment tribunals are also seeing a growing number of cases of unfair dismissal and sex and age discrimination claims brought by employees experiencing menopausal symptoms, who have suffered poor treatment by their employers.
Women undergoing the menopause or perimenopause can experience a wide range of symptoms including insomnia, headaches, anxiety, ‘brain fog’ and palpitations. Some women experience very mild symptoms, but for many the symptoms are more severe and can make working life challenging. According to a 2019 survey carried out by BUPA and the Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development (CIPD) three in five women (usually aged between the ages of 45 and 55) were negatively affected at work due to their menopausal symptoms, and almost 900,000 women in the UK left their jobs for the same reason.
A number of commentators have suggested that the menopause and its symptoms may become a recognised protected characteristic in the near future, providing greater protection for a significant section of the workforce.
Many businesses have already gone a long way towards creating a more flexible and inclusive workplace, and addressing issues that can arise for menopausal women is a next logical step on the way to creating a modern organisation that values female staff at the peak of their careers, which often coincides with menopause. Offering flexible working hours, the option to work from home or even a different workplace set-up can provide solutions to the problems caused by the menopause.
The best way to start to address the issues is to normalise menopause as a topic of consideration and discussion, which will help to create an inclusive working environment for employees at every stage of their working lives. Starting an open conversation about menopause and putting in place an effective menopause policy is the best way to engage employees and maintain their wellbeing and growth.
Pre-empting the inevitable future developments of the law surrounding menopause can be cost effective in the long term in respect of hiring costs, and unnecessary tribunal costs, but it can also help you to maintain a strong and successful workforce, enabling you to get the most of out of your employees.
If you are considering putting a menopause policy in place within your organisation, our employment team can help. Join our experts for a free webinar on Thursday 23 June to learn more about the policies and procedures to effectively support colleagues going through the menopause.
We’re here to helpEmail Matthew
Matthew leads our employment and business immigration team and has over 20 years’ experience in the field. Matthew is noted as a ‘leading individual’ by The Legal 500 UK.