Supporting the Change of Life.

Last month brought us World Menopause Day, together with new guidance published by ACAS on how employers should support employees experiencing menopause symptoms at work.

The Government Equalities Office reported in 2017 that more working women than ever before will experience the menopause transition during their working lives due to increased rates of employment among women aged 50 and over. ACAS highlighted that currently around one in eight of the British workforce are women over 50 and by 2022 it is forecast that around one in six will be women over 50.

Menopausal symptoms can continue for years and can also affect younger employees as early menopause or perimenopause leading up to menopause. Alongside the physical symptoms, employees may also experience stress, depression, anxiety, loss of concentration and a loss in confidence to do their job.

Additionally, menopausal symptoms have been accepted by the Employment Tribunal to be a disability under the Equality Act 2010. In another case, a Tribunal found that a manager would not have adopted the same “bizarre and irrational approach with other non-female related conditions” when he chose not to carry out medical investigations of menopause symptoms and relied upon his own wife’s experience of menopause. A supportive and sensitive approach to menopause-related issues that arise in the workplace is therefore increasingly important for employers in minimising the risk of sex, disability or age discrimination.

ACAS recommends implementing a menopause policy and awareness training for managers as well as conducting appropriate health and safety checks. They have also suggested considering changes to the workplace or the employee’s role such as providing fans or cooler work spaces near ventilation, providing rest areas or adjusting an employee’s working times or break times to help them manage their symptoms better. It is clearly the case that employers and managers should be aware of the menopause transition, including the likely symptoms and how they can be accommodated. The Labour Party Conference this year went so far as to propose that managers in organisations with over 250 staff would be required to receive training on the effects of menopause and how to accommodate staff needs.

On a separate matter, this month sees Goldman Sachs in the news for adding to their employee benefit plan in an attempt to close their gender pay gap. In 2015, the company offered their employees company funding for sex-reassignment surgery and they are now offering substantial funding for IVF treatment and purchasing donated eggs to employees internationally. This is another example of how larger employers aim to promote more progressive and gender inclusive workplaces.

The contents of this article are intended as guidance for readers. It can be no substitute for specific advice. Consequently we cannot accept responsibility for this information, errors or matters affected by subsequent changes in the law, or the content of any website referred to in this article. © Mundays LLP.

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