In line with World Menopause Day on 18 October, the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) published new guidance to help employers manage and support the impact of menopause in the workplace. The guidance highlights the common symptoms of perimenopause and menopause, sets out how employers and employees can work together to find solutions and explains how best to approach this subject. Practical tips on making adjustments to support employees going through the menopause transition are also suggested in the guidance.
The menopause is a natural stage of life for women and symptoms can vary widely in nature, from mild to severe. With women over the age of 50 being the fastest growing group in the workforce, most will go through the menopause transition during their working lives. For many women, symptoms last around four years but, in some cases, the menopause can last up to twelve years.
Recent CIPD research found that 59% of working women between the ages of 45 and 55 who are experiencing menopause symptoms said it has a negative impact on them at work, such as struggling to concentrate or focus, feeling tired or having a lack of energy.
Supporting the employee
The Acas guidance highlights helpful steps for an employer to follow in order to support employees through the menopause, including:
- Ensuring health and safety checks are suitable – it is important that menopausal symptoms are not made worse by the workplace and that changes to manage symptoms are addressed and implemented.
- Developing a policy, raising awareness and training all managers on the effects and symptoms of menopause.
- Offering an alternative to a manager as the first point of contact such as a menopause or wellbeing champion, a member of HR or a trade union representative.
- Carefully and sensitively managing sickness absence or a dip in job performance: the menopause is a long-term and fluctuating health change, so be sure to give employees time to adjust.
What does this mean for you or your business?
45% of women said that the number one consideration for not disclosing that they were going through the menopause transition was due to privacy, but 32% said that it was due to unsupportive managers. The ACAS guidance is aimed towards both employers and employees in order to help them approach the subject in the most respectful and sensitive way possible, and to ensure employees feel supported in the workplace.
The guidance also sets out a step-by-step approach for employers to follow when agreeing changes to work to help their employees manage menopausal symptoms. Key examples include: providing a fan; flexible start and finish times; allowing them to work from home when practical; and changing certain duties in the employee’s role.
Be sure to have regular, informal catch-ups with employees to determine whether implemented changes are effective and identify whether any extra support may be beneficial.
What do you need to be doing now?
Menopause is not specifically protected under the Equality Act 2010. However, if an employee is treated unfairly because of the menopause, it may amount to discrimination on the basis of sex/age/disability. Furthermore, depending on the nature of any unwanted comments, jokes or banter regarding a woman’s menopause symptoms and/or transition, a claim for harassment or sexual harassment could arise. It is, therefore, important for employers to have awareness of the employment laws that relate to menopausal issues.
Subsequently, it is essential for an employer to support employees suffering with menopausal symptoms and raise awareness in the workplace, making reasonable adjustments where necessary, which may involve conducting risk assessments to identify the specific needs of menopausal employees.
Although some employees may complain that said colleague is being treated more favourably, managers do not have to make the same changes for other members in the team that are not suffering from menopausal symptoms.
In an effort to normalise the “taboo” subject, Channel 4 is the latest employer to launch a dedicated menopause policy for employers, announcing its action on World Menopause Day.
In addition to the recent ACAS guidance, CIPD have also published a practical guide for managers which can be found HERE.
These notes have been prepared for the purpose of an article only. They should not be regarded as a substitute for taking legal advice.