With menopause receiving much attention, both in the media and Government at the moment, the cross-party House of Commons Women and Equalities committee has published a report which calls on the Government to take various actions in relation to menopause in the workplace.
The report considers the cost to women, employers, society and the economy of not addressing the challenges that employees experiencing menopause face, citing that women over the age of 50 are the fastest growing group in the workforce, with 4.5 million women aged 50 to 64 currently in employment. Women in this age group are often at the peak of their careers, being highly skilled and experienced, and act as role models to younger employees. However, of women that report at least one problematic menopausal symptom at the age of 50, 43% were more likely to have left their job by the age of 55, with 23% more likely to have reduced working hours.
The report refers to several approaches organisations can take to best support menopausal women in the workplace:
1. Openness, awareness and training: menopause in the workplace should be talked about more openly as a first step, in addition to referring to menopause in on-boarding and induction processes. This will make it clear that it is a health issue the organisation wishes to help with. Other suggestions include creating a library of books on menopause, appointing workplace menopause champions and running training sessions on the impact of menopause.
2. Menopause policies and guidance: having specific workplace policies which address how employees can be supported through menopause can assist both employees and their managers.
3. Sickness policies: where several short-term absences can trigger performance reviews or disciplinary action, it can be especially challenging for menopausal women. To address this, organisations could record menopause-related sickness absences as an ongoing issue, rather than as individual and discrete absences.
4. Flexible working: flexible working was cited repeatedly as a method for assisting menopausal women, both in terms of location of work and hours.
The report further calls on the Government to appoint a Menopause Ambassador, to champion good practice in the workplace and to work with businesses to encourage and disseminate awareness, good practice and guidance to employers. Further, the report requests that the Government allows dual discrimination claims based on more than one protected characteristic under the Equality Act, for instance age and sex, and for the Government to consult on making menopause a protected characteristic in its own right. The Government is yet to respond to the report, although, as discussed in our previous blog post, it has previously announced that there is no intention to introduce the menopause as a new protected characteristic.