Syma Spanjers: What support should employers provide for menopause in the workplace?

menopauseThere is growing momentum among employers to support employees affected by the menopause in the workplace.

In July 2022, the government produced its response to the Independent report on menopause and the workplace. For employers, the key recommendations include promoting open conversations and training line managers to recognise symptoms of the menopause and signpost the support available, raising awareness around the condition and taking action to combat bias and harassment, and introducing workplace adjustments in addition to flexible working.

Other important recommendations include creating menopause support groups, reviewing sick leave, performance management and flexible working policies for those experiencing the condition, introducing dedicated support via employee assistance programmes (EAPs) and menopause champions, and practical support.

Employers also need to consider their legal obligations. The menopause affects everyone differently and can be a long-term health condition, so employers should review their health and safety risk assessments to ensure that the workplace or its practices do not adversely impact menopause symptoms.

Organisations should start an open conversation around the menopause to remove the stigma associated with its symptoms. It not only affects women and people who have a menstrual cycle, but also those supporting them, including relatives and colleagues. Everyone in the workplace, of all genders and ages, should be involved in the discussion.

Simple steps can make a significant difference, such as allowing for regular breaks and providing a quiet room, adjusting the temperature and ventilation of the workplace, and ensuring toilets and cold drinking water are easily accessible.

Employers should consider introducing a menopause policy to highlight the support available in the workplace, and appointing a menopause champion as a first point of contact for individuals looking for more information or support. Holding regular support sessions or menopause caf├ęs will create a positive environment for employees to share experiences and further break down the taboo associated with those conversations.

By providing training and raising awareness, employees and managers will have the confidence to discuss issues relating to the menopause and the practical adjustments which can be made so that staff can continue to work effectively. Employees should be able to approach employers for support without feeling like they need to hide the real reason for their absence from work or why they need adjustments to their role.

Finally, although the government has confirmed that it will not amend the Equality Act 2010 to include menopause as a standalone protected characteristic, workers are still protected from discrimination because of age, disability, and sex. Indeed, there has been a steady increase in the number of employment tribunal claims involving menopause. It is therefore essential that employers take practical and effective steps to support workers affected by it to ensure that they are not disadvantaged or treated less favourably because of their symptoms.

Syma Spanjers is a senior associate at Charles Russell Speechlys