Published by BBC NEWS - 22nd February 2024
  • Published
A woman works in a studioImage source, Getty Images

Menopause symptoms can be considered a disability and employers face being sued if they do not make “reasonable adjustments”, a watchdog has said.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) issued the guidance to clarify the legal obligations to workers going through the menopause.

Symptoms can include hot flushes, brain fog and difficulty sleeping.

The EHRC said bosses should offer changes such as providing rest areas or flexible hours to help.

Relaxing uniform policies to allow women to wear cooler clothes could also help.

Menopause marks the end of a woman’s menstrual cycle, and usually happens in her 40s or 50s.

Failing to make “reasonable adjustments” amounts to disability discrimination under the Equality Act 2010 if the symptoms have a “long-term and substantial impact” on a woman’s ability to carry out their usual day-to-day activities, the EHRC said.

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.”

The EHRC cited research showing that one in 10 women surveyed who worked during their menopause were forced to leave their job due to the symptoms.

Two-thirds of women between the ages of 40 and 60 experienced menopausal symptoms at work, which largely had a negative impact. Very few asked for adjustments during this time because they were concerned about the potential reaction, it added.

The EHRC adds that taking disciplinary action against women for a menopause related-absence could amount to discrimination, and that language that ridicules someone’s symptoms could constitute harassment.

EHRC chairwoman Baroness Kishwer Falkner said the watchdog was “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”.

She added that employers “may not fully understand their responsibility to protect their staff going through the menopause”, and that the new guidance had been issued to provide advice on how they can support their staff.




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