29th November, 2019
‘Menopause at work’ is under the spotlight of new ACAS guidance
On 18th October 2019 World Menopause Day celebrated its 10th Anniversary, supporting women worldwide and recognising the challenges faced by those suffering with menopausal symptoms and other related conditions.
In line with this, ACAS has now published guidance which aims to support and help employers manage the impact of menopause in the workplace. The guidance provides practical tips on approaching what can often be a sensitive subject and includes an overview of the most common menopausal symptoms and their potential impact in the workplace.
In modern workplaces it is reported that around two million women aged over 50 experience difficulty at work due to the symptoms of menopause. Further, new research from the CIPD suggests that ‘three out of five (59%) working women between the ages of 45 and 55 who are experiencing menopause symptoms say it has a negative impact on them at work’ leading to an inability to concentrate, greater stress and an increase in sickness absence.
Many women find it difficult to be open about menopausal symptoms as there is often a perception that line managers are ill informed or insensitive about the issue. This is usually because of lack of awareness and training on how the menopause can affect women in the workplace and how to deal with it appropriately. This can be extremely costly for employers, particularly in respect of productivity, a disrupted working environment or affected employees taking time off work which could have been prevented if managed properly. Worst case scenario, employers may find themselves having to defend unfair dismissal, disability, age and/or sex discrimination claims in the Employment Tribunal.
Employers therefore need to be extremely careful not to discriminate, either directly or indirectly, against a member of staff suffering with menopausal symptoms. Treating the individual less favourably than you would others because of their menopausal symptomse could amount to direct discrimination on the grounds of disability, age and/or sex. Alternatively, an employer could indirectly discriminate if they apply a provision, criterion or practice which has a greater adverse impact on those with a particular protected characteristic more than others without any objective justification i.e. over 50s.
Employers are also warned of the potential exposure to harassment claims if such members of staff are engaged in unwanted conduct related to a relevant protected characteristic, and the conduct has the purpose or effect of violating their dignity, or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for them. Examples could include name-calling or offensive remarks and may even be a one-off incident.
It is important for employers to be aware of this issue and for women to feel that they can openly talk to their line managers. Being open about the issue, incorporating menopause into relevant policies and providing training can make a substantial difference. Small changes and offers of support can help women to perform to the best of their abilities, increase engagement and loyalty and lower sickness absence.
- Consider putting in place a menopause policy or introduce menopause into relevant policies which are properly implemented and recognised by staff.
- Train managers, supervisors and team leaders to work effectively with members of staff suffering with menopausal symptoms and how to deal with issues sensitively.
- Develop an open and honest workplace culture so that employees can speak confidently about their symptoms and employers are comfortable in dealing with any issues.
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