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It’s me. Hi. I’m the lawyer it’s me. Philip Pearson-Batt (clearly counting the days down to seeing Taylor Swift in August).

For those of you who have been living under a rock, my husband & I, returned from a month in New Zealand at the end of last year. The post-holiday blues have really started to hit us. Let me share how we’re getting through:

  1. We (I) have spent hours putting together our photo album. If anybody wants to view that then please let me know – I am always happy to bore people with the 3000+ photos we took;
  2. We’re rewatching The Lord of the Rings We sit there saying “we’ve been there” all the time. For example, when (spoiler alert!) Boromir takes an arrow to the chest in the woods we both shouted “oh that’s Paradise!” Not the reaction Peter Jackson would have wanted, but still;
  3. We have even resorted to watching the Channel 4 documentary “New Zealand by Train” to get us through. Not our usual fare, but as they pull into stops that are familiar to us it’s actually been quite good. My father-in-law says there’s not enough train content in it, we say there’s not enough New Zealand content;

Then we come to our most drastic measure – we’ve just booked our latest “adventure”, this time on a much smaller scale. We’re going to have a few days in Milan, with a trip to Lake Como, and then catch the train over to Venice where we intend to spend a few days exploring, eating all the pasta we can find and maybe sampling the odd afternoon Aperol Spritz in a piazza.

So, if anybody has any recommendations or tips for Milan or Venice, please let me know!

But, I really want to talk to you about something much more serious than my frivolous trips abroad.

As part of a continued concerted effort to create a more supportive employment environment for those experiencing the impact of the menopause, the Equality and Human Rights Commission (the ERHC) have recently published new guidance, which aims to assist employers to understand what their legal obligations towards staff experiencing menopausal symptoms are.

The guidance doesn’t actually go so far as to create any new legal obligations for employers. It’s non-statutory and non-binding. But what it does do is it provides further clarity for employers as to what their existing obligations are.

For example, it reconfirms that whilst there is no separate protected characteristic for “the menopause”, those experiencing the symptoms of the menopause can fall under the protections of the Equality Act 2010 (EqA) in the following ways:

  • The symptoms of the menopause can themselves qualify as a disability under the Equality Act 2010, if they otherwise meet the legal test i.e. they have a substantial impact on a person’s ability to carry out day-to-day activities and that impact is long term (i.e. have lasted or are likely to last 12 months);
  • As the menopause predominantly affects those aged between 45 and 55, protection may be offered under the age protected characteristic; and
  • As the menopause predominantly affects women, protection may also be offered under the sex protected characteristic.

There is a whole host of case law which confirms this, but the ERHC have now simplified and solidified the guidance for employers by creating bitesize and instructional videos.

Additionally, the guidance makes some practical suggestions for how employers can support those experiencing menopausal symptoms (ensuring that they are compliant with their obligation to make reasonable adjustments where the symptoms do qualify as a disability). These include:

  • First and foremost complying with their obligation to have appropriate risk assessments in place;
  • Considering the physical workplace environment and how this might interplay with the symptoms of the menopause (for example the temperature of the room);
  • Providing rest areas or quiet rooms;
  • Providing fans or cooling systems;
  • Adjusting uniform policies;
  • Promoting flexibility in terms of working hours and working locations.

All of this is important because recent CIPD research suggest that two thirds of working women between the ages of 40 and 60 with experience of menopausal symptoms said they have had a mostly negative impact on them at work. As the UK population ages, this is going to become even more relevant than it absolutely already is, so getting a good grip on it now is going to put you in the best possible position moving forward.

And it’s easy to get it so very badly wrong. You might have seen the “demeaning” gift bag that Avanti West Coast offered to menopausal staff, which included jelly baby sweets in case employees felt like “biting someone’s head off” and a tissue if they were “feeling a bit emotional”. Whilst there may have been good intentions behind the support packs, there might have been slightly more sensitive ways to deal with a really personal issue.

Creating an open and tolerant work environment where these sort of issues can be discussed sensitively will also help. And the best way to achieve that is to educate staff – particularly managers. There are two really good ways to educate staff:

  1. Offer training, talking staff through the impact of the menopause at work and what can be done to support staff is a good place to start.
  2. Put down your commitment to supporting staff who experience the symptoms of the menopause in a menopause policy. That way they know where to go for support and managers who are there to support will have a quick reference guide.

All of this is something that Precept can help with. We’re forward thinkers when it comes to the menopause at work and have robust template policies and comprehensive training modules ready and raring to share with you and your staff. So, get in touch and let us help you!