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Friday, 23 February 2024 13:43

Reasonable Adjustments for Menopause

The discussion around managing menopause in the workplace was re-ignited this week following guidelines released by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC). The commission’s guidance was translated in the media as ‘menopause is a disability', and employers must make reasonable adjustments for women going through menopause.

There’s a much wider discussion here regarding the steps that an employer should take to accommodate and enable anybody to be able to do their job effectively, in the face of obstacles and barriers to do so. Labelling menopause as a disability however might even disturb or annoy some people. Indeed, Kate Muir, Women's health campaigner and author of Everything you need to know about the menopause (but were too afraid to ask) said on the BBC’s Today programme, "It's not a disability. It's something every woman goes through, and legislation is not going to give you your missing hormones back."

To be clear, there has been no amendment to the Equalities Act 2010 to specifically include menopause as a disability. Under the Act, workers are protected from discrimination, harassment and victimisation on the basis of protected characteristics including disability, age and sex. However, it seems the EHRC is relying on the clause that any condition that has a long term and substantial impact on an individual’s ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities, could be considered a disability.

Menopause typically affects women between the ages of 45 and 55, but it can begin earlier or later. Symptoms vary widely among individuals but can include hot flushes, sleep disturbance, mood swings, and concentration difficulties or brain fog. These symptoms can significantly impact an individual's work performance and well-being and because of how long symptoms last, it can indeed, fall under the description of what a disability is under the terms of the Equalities Act.

Despite its prevalence however, menopause has historically been a taboo subject, often leaving those experiencing it to suffer in silence, without support from their employers. In fact there are numerous reports of women who are so unsupported they feel forced to leave their jobs. Such failure from employers could be construed as a squandering of talent and experience; something few businesses can afford to do in the current climate.

The broader implication of the EHRC’s recommendations is the need for workplaces to adopt a more inclusive approach to all kinds of conditions, not just those currently recognised as disabilities. Employers have the opportunity to lead by example; re-evaluating workplace policies and culture to ensure they support the diverse needs of all employees. For example, implementing flexible working hours, providing access to private, comfortable rest areas, or offering support and creating an open culture where employees feel comfortable discussing their needs can make a significant difference to employees dealing with a variety of conditions, including menopause.

The well-being of employees is paramount to a productive and positive work environment. Recognising and accommodating the needs of employees going through menopause or facing other health challenges, is not just a matter of legal compliance but also a reflection of a company's commitment to diversity, inclusion, and employee health.

Employers who proactively address wellbeing issue can improve morale, reduce absenteeism, and retain valuable, experienced staff members, ultimately benefiting the entire organisation.

Furthermore, this approach challenges the notion that adjustments should only be made when a condition is legally classified as a disability. It encourages a shift towards early intervention and support, which can prevent conditions from worsening and foster a more inclusive and supportive work environment. By focusing on the specific needs of employees, employers can create a more adaptive and responsive workplace culture.

Experience tells us time and again that creating a supportive workplace environment benefits everyone involved. It's not just about legal compliance or ticking boxes; it's about building a workplace culture that genuinely supports the well-being and success of every employee.

We can support businesses with training that helps to build a constructive and positive organisational culture. We can also support managers with practical training in managing employee health issues to keep businesses legally compliant. Call us on 01452 331331 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

  

Read 603 times Last modified on Friday, 23 February 2024 14:53

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