Menopause – don’t leave your organisation red-faced

12 Dec Menopause – don’t leave your organisation red-faced

Are you aware that 7 out of 10 women who are experiencing the menopause are in work in this country?

3 out of 5 working women between the ages of 45 and 55 who are experiencing menopause symptoms say it has a negative impact on them at work. Most starkly, over 370,000 women admitted they had either left or had considered leaving their career owing to the difficulties of going through the menopause in the workplace.  So that is 7 out of 10 women considering giving up careers as a result of something that all women have to go through – and employers everywhere losing out on skills and experience built up over many years by not taking steps to help their employees stay in work.

For you, as an employer, this is an area to watch.  It can be both direct sex discrimination and/or disability discrimination to treat a woman less favourably because of symptoms related to the menopause.  So, you need to understand your obligations and make sure you don’t break them by mistake.  And, of course, the health and safety of all employees is legally protected, so understanding how to risk assess and cover menopausal employees is vital.

The people actually managing staff need to be aware of how to approach this.  One lady, dismissed for poor performance despite making her manager aware of her symptoms, including concentration issues, won her claim for sex discrimination.  The manager chose not to carry out any further investigations of her symptoms, in breach of the performance management policy.  The Tribunal held he would not have approached a male employee’s claims in the way he did this one, and he had taken the decision partly on his own very limited experience (that of his own wife!).  Training this manager could have avoided all these issues.

Where symptoms are more significant, they can even trigger disability discrimination protection.  In a case where menopause transition symptoms included heavy bleeding as well as stress, memory loss and other symptoms, a dismissal resulted in unfair dismissal and discrimination arising from disability being upheld. Menopause symptoms can last several years and have a significant impact on day to day activities, so fall under the definition of disability in some cases.

As an employer, symptoms that are likely to affect employees in the workplace are:

  • hot flushes;
  • headaches;
  • tiredness and lack of energy;
  • sweating;
  • anxiety;
  • aches and pains;
  • dry skin and eyes; and
  • loss of concentration and short-term memory problems.

Adjustments can be very simple – providing cold water, for example, or electric fans.  Your sickness policy can be adapted to be clear that menopausal sickness is covered and what to do in the event that an employee is suffering from symptoms.  Providing a female contact is a sympathetic and proactive way of allowing your employees to come forward about their symptoms.

If you embrace the changes and use them positively within your organisation, you can use this to your advantage, keeping staff you might otherwise lose unnecessarily and perhaps attracting the employees who found other organisations less willing to support them.

If you would like any further information on how to approach this in your workplace, or indeed feel that you are suffering unfair treatment because of this, then call a member of the team on 01904 360295 or email georgina@bridgeehr.co.uk