July 12, 2023

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    Is workplace reform for menopause on the cards?

    The answer: Only a little bit of reform is, and it’s not as wide-ranging as hoped.

    In January 2023, the Government responded to a report by the Women and Equalities Committee (“the Committee”) on the lack of specific protection afforded to individuals experiencing the menopause in the workplace.

    The Committee’s report highlighted some key issues faced by individuals who experience the menopause in the workplace, such as:

    • the need for more support and awareness for employers

    • gaps in the law as it currently stands

    It also proposed 12 recommendations for reform to better protect and assist menopausal individuals in the workplace.

    We look at 4 of those recommendations and the Government’s January 2023 response:

    1. Menopause Ambassador

      The Government should appoint a menopause ambassador to work with stakeholders from business, unions and advisory groups to encourage and disseminate awareness, good practice and guidance to employers.

      Government Response: Accepted.

      The Government stated it will appoint a Menopause Employment Champion to work with employers on menopause workplace issues and to spearhead an employer-led communications campaign on the menopause.

    2. Model Menopause policies

      The Government should produce model menopause policies to assist employers.

      Government Response: Rejected.

      The Government doesn’t believe a model policy is necessary. Their response states that organisations such as CIPD and ACAS have already produced guidance to support employers.

    3. Pilot a Menopause Leave policy

      The Government should work with a large public sector employer to develop and pilot a specific ‘menopause leave’ policy.

      Government Response: Rejected.

      The Government replied that work is already underway within the NHS to develop more workplace support. The response also states that the Government’s policy aim is to support menopausal individuals to remain in the workplace and suggests that a specific menopause leave may be counterproductive to achieving that aim.

    4. Introduce a protected characteristic of menopause

      The Government should launch a consultation on how to amend the Equality Act to introduce a new protected characteristic of menopause.

      Government Response: Rejected.

      Though the Government agreed that individuals should not be discriminated against because of the menopause, they have concluded that the existing protected characteristics of age, sex and disability should provide sufficient protection. Interestingly, the report alludes to concerns that such legislation could inadvertently create the risk of discrimination towards men suffering from long term medical conditions. Given men in such a position would likely fall with the protected characteristic of disability, this response is somewhat peculiar.

    What can you do?

    Aside from any government guidance or response, having a supportive and menopause friendly workplace can help you attract and retain the best talent. Everyone wants to work in a workplace that values inclusivity.

    Making certain changes or putting measures into place now could help to:

    • Demonstrate your commitment to employees experiencing the menopause,

    • Foster a greater understanding of the menopause

    • Reduce your risk of claims under current law for discrimination or harassment.

    So, what are you waiting for?

    Get in touch with our lovely employment team today for insights and information on what you can do and what you need to do.

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