The menopause is a natural stage of life for women, usually in their late forties/early fifties. It usually lasts for between 4 and 12 years.
According to a survey from the TUC, over 47% of women have reported taking time off work due to the symptoms suffered as a result of going through the menopause.
This is a serious issue that all employers must learn how to address. There have been two successful claims that been brought in the English and Scottish Employment Tribunals for discrimination (disability and sex) where companies have failed to treat women fairly when they go through this part of their life.
Common symptoms of the menopause that may be experienced in the workplace or have an effect in the work place include:
1. hot flushes;
2. difficulty sleeping;
3. skin irritation;
4. problems with memory and concentration;
6. weight gain;
7. mood changes, such as low mood or anxiety;
9. joint stiffness, aches and pains;
10. reduced muscle mass;
11. recurrent urinary tract infections (UTI’s); and
12. the menopause can also increase the risk of developing certain other problems, such as weak bones (osteoporosis).
All of these symptoms can cause a reduction in productivity and other issues within the workplace.
If an employee or worker does not receive the help and support that they need, then it is more likely that the effects of the menopause may lead them to:
1. feel or become ill;
2. lose confidence generally or in connection with their job;
3. suffer from mental health conditions, including but not limited to, stress, anxiety and depression; or
4. leaving their job
which can all have significant effects on productivity.
All employers have a duty to protect the health and well-being of their workers and not to behave in a way that can undermine the implied duty of trust and confidence.
As with a disability, there is a legal duty to make reasonable adjustments for women going through the menopause. The adjustments may be practical ones, such as relaxing strict uniform rules so that different clothing can be worn to cool the body and to hide sweat patches.
Employers need to have policies and procedures in place to deal with employees suffering from the symptoms of menopause fairly and to ensure they are not treated to their detriment as a result of that. Health and safety assessments must also be completed. If companies are in any doubt as to the issues that should be addressed, they are urged to seek urgent advice before any action is taken.
At Enoch Evans LLP, we have dedicated employment lawyers who are able to assist. Should any assistance be required, please call us on 01922 720333.