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Respect the menopause or be sued for disability discrimination


The Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has issued guidance clarifying the legal obligations of employers regarding menopausal women in the workplace.

Failure to make “reasonable adjustments” for menopausal women, such as allowing them to work from home or adjusting office temperatures, could lead to potential disability discrimination lawsuits, according to the EHRC.

The guidance emphasizes that menopausal symptoms, if they have a long-term and substantial impact on daily activities, can be considered a disability under the Equality Act. Employers are urged to protect women experiencing menopausal symptoms from discrimination based on age and sex.

Recommendations include measures like improving workplace ventilation, providing rest areas, relaxing uniform policies to allow cooler clothing, and offering flexibility in work arrangements, such as adjusting shift patterns or allowing remote work.

Disciplinary action due to menopause-related absence and language that ridicules menopausal women could also be grounds for discrimination lawsuits, the guidance warns.

The EHRC chairwoman, Baroness Falkner of Margravine, emphasized the importance of employers understanding their legal obligations and supporting staff going through menopause.

Despite concerns raised by some employers about classifying menopause as a disability, the EHRC asserts that failing to make reasonable adjustments for menopausal symptoms would constitute disability discrimination if the symptoms meet the criteria under the Equality Act.

It’s estimated that about 13 million women in the UK are going through or have experienced menopause, with post-menopausal women representing a significant demographic in the workforce.

While some argue against classifying menopause as a disability, others advocate for specific workplace policies, including “menopause leave,” to better support menopausal women in the workforce. Many businesses have already pledged to adopt menopause-friendly policies to prevent women from leaving the workforce due to menopausal symptoms.

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