Government rejects calls for 'menopause leave' as it could cause 'discrimination against men'

24 January 2023, 06:15

The move has been described as a "missed opportunity"
The move has been described as a "missed opportunity". Picture: Getty
Kieran Kelly

By Kieran Kelly

The government has rejected calls for a large-scale pilot of menopause leave, saying that the measure could be "counterproductive" and "discriminate against men".

Ministers have also refused a recommendation from the Commons Women and Equalities Committee to make menopause a "protected characteristic" under the Equalities Act.

The recommendations formed part of a cross-party report which focused on menopause and the workplace, but in a response published on Tuesday the Government rejected both suggestions.

Committee chairwoman and Conservative MP Caroline Nokes questioned the Government's commitment to the issue of menopause.

In a letter to health minister Maria Caulfield, the Ms Nokes said she was disappointed that "very little new work has been committed to by the Government".

She also expressed concern that the government had ignored what she termed the "significant evidence base" for menopause being seen as a "protected characteristic".

But the government, in rejecting the recommendation, suggested that the approach is not the right solution of women.

It also warned of creating "discrimination risks towards men suffering from long-term medical conditions, or eroding existing protections".

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The government added that the proposal for a pilot scheme on menopause leave was not seen as "necessary" and could turn out to be "counterproductive".

"We are focusing our efforts on disseminating best practice and encouraging employers to implement workplace menopause policies and other forms of support such as flexible working, which can play a vital role in supporting people to remain in work," the government said.

Ms Nokes said that it was a "missed opportunity to protect vast numbers of talented and experienced women from leaving the workforce, and leaves me unconvinced that menopause is a Government priority".

"The evidence to our inquiry was crystal clear that urgent action was needed across healthcare and work settings to properly address women's needs, yet government progress has been glacial and its response complacent," she said.

"Its refusal to even consult on reforming equalities law doesn't make sense and we urge it to look again."

A Government spokesperson said: "We recognise that the menopause can be a challenging time for women, which is why we have put women's health at the top of the agenda as part of the first-ever women's health strategy for England.

"We are implementing an ambitious programme of work with the NHS to improve menopause care so all women can access the support they need.

"We encourage employers to be compassionate and flexible to the needs of their employees, and are committed to supporting more flexible working patterns - having consulted on making flexible working the default unless employers have good reasons not to."