Information from ACAS about Menopause at work.
Some symptoms of perimenopause and menopause can be the same, and can range from mild to severe. They include:
•difficulty sleeping and night sweats
•feeling tired and lacking energy
•feeling anxious and panic attacks
•struggling to remember things, concentrate and focus
•taking longer to recover from illness
•irregular periods which can become heavier
•aches and pains including muscle and joint stiffness
•headaches including migraines
•putting on weight
If a worker does not get the help and support they need, it is increasingly likely that the effects of the menopause can, for example, lead to them:
•losing confidence to do their job
•suffering from mental health conditions such as stress, anxiety and depression
•leaving their job
An employer must minimise, reduce or where possible remove workplace health and safety risks for workers. This includes:
•ensuring menopausal symptoms are not made worse by the workplace and/or its work practices
•making changes to help a worker manage their symptoms when doing their job
An employer must generally assess health and safety risks for workers. Regarding the perimenopause and menopause, an assessment should, for example, include:
•the temperature and ventilation in the workplace
•the materials used in an organisation's uniform, if there is one, and whether the uniform might make a worker going through the perimenopause or menopause feel too hot or worsen skin irritation
•somewhere suitable for the worker to rest
•whether toilet and washroom facilities are easily available
•whether cold drinking water is easily available
Menopause and perimenopause are not specifically protected under the Equality Act. However, if a worker is treated unfairly because of the menopause and perimenopause, this may amount to discrimination because, for example, of their sex and/or a disability, and/or their age.
Sex discrimination: Unfair treatment of a worker because of their sex could lead to a discrimination claim. For example, this is likely if an employer treats a woman's menopause or perimenopause symptoms less seriously than it would a male worker's health condition when considering a drop in job performance.
Also, for example, unwanted comments, jokes, banter or ridicule about a woman's menopause or perimenopause symptoms could amount to harassment, or sexual harassment depending on the nature of the unwanted behaviour.
Disability discrimination: A worker's menopause or perimenopause could potentially be regarded as a disability by an employment tribunal. If a worker has a disability, an employer must consider making changes to reduce or remove any disadvantages the worker experiences because of it. Regarding disability, the law calls these 'reasonable adjustments'. An employer must make adjustments if they are reasonable.
Also, disability law protects a worker against what is termed 'discrimination arising from disability'. This is where a worker is treated unfairly, not because of their disability, but because of something linked to it. For example, this could include a worker being dismissed because they forgot to do a task set by their employer. And this is when they have become forgetful and confused as a result of anxiety caused by their menopause. Their anxiety would have to meet the Equality Act definition of disability.
Employers may wish to bear in mind that the not-for-profit organisation, Business Disability Forum, advises employers against wrestling with whether the effects of a health condition amount to a disability under the Act. Instead, it encourages them to focus on making 'reasonable adjustments'.
Age discrimination: Workers are protected against unfair treatment because of their age. This may include unfair treatment of workers because they are going through the perimenopause or menopause which are usually in their mid-forties to early fifties.
Health, safety and welfare at work
Managing the effects of the menopause and perimenopause includes making sure health and safety checks are already in place, are regularly carried out, and risks minimised, reduced or where possible removed.
See how much you know about the menopause by trying the quiz - find it in the menopause dropdown