Employers must make 'reasonable adjustments' for women going through menopause or face being sued

22 February 2024, 10:52

Employers could be sued if they do not make "reasonable adjustments" for menopausal women
Employers could be sued if they do not make "reasonable adjustments" for menopausal women. Picture: Alamy

By Emma Soteriou

Employers must make 'reasonable adjustments' for women going through the menopause or they face being sued, updated guidance has said.

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Bosses need to consider how room temperature and ventilation affect menopausal women and think about providing rest areas or quiet rooms, as well as cooling systems or fans for women experiencing hot flushes, the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) said.

The guidance adds that women could be helped by more flexible working, including varied shifts times if a woman has had a bad night's sleep or on a warmer day.

Relaxed uniform policies should also be considered for those affected.

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Symptoms of the menopause - which include brain fog and difficulty sleeping - can be considered a disability under the Equality Act 2010 if they have a "long-term and substantial impact" on a woman's ability to carry out usual daily activities.

Employers who fail to make "reasonable adjustments" could be accused of disability discrimination under the act.

The guidance says that using language that ridicules someone because of their symptoms could be harassment and uniform policies that disadvantage women with symptoms could amount to indirect sex, age or disability discrimination.

A video explaining the fresh guidance says: "The costs of failing to make workplace adjustments for staff can run into hundreds of thousands of pounds when taking into account the loss of talent and costs of defending a claim."

Symptoms include hot flushes, brain fog and difficulty sleeping
Symptoms include hot flushes, brain fog and difficulty sleeping. Picture: Alamy

EHRC chairwoman Baroness Kishwer Falkner said: "As Britain's equality watchdog, we are concerned both by how many women report being forced out of a role due to their menopause-related symptoms and how many don't feel safe enough to request the workplace adjustments.

"An employer understanding their legal duties is the foundation of equality in the workplace.

"It is clear that many may not fully understand their responsibility to protect their staff going through the menopause.

"Our new guidance sets out these legal obligations for employers and provides advice on how they can best support their staff.

"We hope that this guidance helps ensure every woman going through the menopause is treated fairly and can work in a supportive and safe environment."

Mims Davies MP, Minister for Disabled People, Health & Work said: "Since I appointed the Government's first ever Menopause Employment Champion almost a year ago, many businesses have come forward to engage with us and improve their workplace environment for women with menopause impact, which can be debilitating.

"The number of women in work is at a record high with two million more women in work compared to 2010, but there is still more work to do.

"Especially with women over 50 the fastest growing segment in our workforce.

"This new guidance will raise even more awareness among the business community and help women by improving understanding of their rights.

"Not only is this vital for the progression of women in the workforce, it's vital for the growth of our economy."