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The menopause at work… the story continues.

Today (8th March 2023) marks International Women’s Day and we wanted to take the opportunity to provide an update on one of the big issues affecting women at work.

Our recent session on the menopause in the workplace gave employers an insight into the current landscape for those experiencing the symptoms of menopause whilst at work.

But the story continues…

As we spoke about briefly during our session, the government have recently published their full response to the Women and Equalities Committee’s report into the menopause and the workplace. The Committee’s report made a number of recommendations including making the menopause a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010 and introducing paid leave for those going through the menopause.

In the main, the government’s response is “we’re not adopting the recommendations, people experiencing the menopause currently get enough support at work”.

Remember that tribunal claims related to the menopause are on the rise, which suggests that there perhaps isn’t actually sufficient support “on the front line” so to speak. If there was, surely we wouldn’t be seeing more people having to take the drastic step of bringing claims at the tribunal?

One thing the government is going to do is implement a national “Menopause Employment Champion”. That individual will report every six months on the progress made to support those going through the menopause.

Recent government support includes providing better access to menopause support through a new scheme enabling access to a year’s worth of menopause prescription items for the cost of 2 single prescription charges (currently £18.70).

But does this go far enough?

Well, the Labour party say no – it doesn’t. In fact, in the last few weeks they have revealed quite the opposite approach.

Under Labour’s plans, those experiencing the symptoms of the menopause could be offered paid time off and mandatory working environments with temperature-controlled areas.

On top of this, larger employers would be required to publish and implement “menopause action plans” setting out how they support employees experiencing menopausal symptoms. It’s currently envisaged that this would largely reflect reporting requirements for the gender pay gap.

…but is this too much?  It certainly makes our job as employers more difficult, but equally we don’t want to lose talent in the workplace due to the menopause….its a tricky condundrum.

OK but what do we do about all this?

Whilst the politicians fight it out in parliament, you’re probably going to want to know what to do if you have staff going through the symptoms of the menopause.

First things first, think about what your current legal obligations are. Remember you’ve got to take reasonable steps to ensure the health and wellbeing of your staff under the Health & Safety at Work Act. That will include thinking about the risks associated with the menopause. Remember also that staff might be protected under existing protected characteristics set out in the Equality Act (there have been, for example, successful tribunal claims for sex, age and/or disability discrimination).  If you didn’t attend Philip and Robyn’s session on the menopause, let us know and we will send you the recording…it is a must see!

Then, start to plan! An employer with a plan for how to support menopausal staff is going to be ahead of the game.

Once you have a plan – implement it! Adjust your workplace or any internal practices or policies that might impact people going through the menopause.

If you’re ever in doubt or get stuck, give Precept a call. We can (and will!) help you to navigate this really tricky and sensitive subject.