The Menopause and the Workplace

Author: Nicola O'Dwyer

With an increase in the number of older women within the workplace, the menopause appears to becoming less of a taboo subject. This has also been assisted by the exposure that has been given to the subject of the menopause in the media.

Recently, the Government Equalities Office provided a report on the effects of the menopause on female employees and the adjustments that may need to be made within the workplace to assist them to cope with the symptoms. The report highlighted that the menopause could cause a number of different symptoms, including sleep disturbance, tiredness, memory problems, lack of concentration, anxiety, hot flushes and night sweats, migraines, irritability, mood swings and emotional outbursts and depression. These symptoms could potentially all lead to problems at work and prevent female employees from performing as expected.

The following guidance is provided in the report highlighting how employers can make changes to help female employees suffering from menopausal symptoms:

  • Employers to be open to discussing the troublesome symptoms that a female employee may suffer from. Training may need to be provided to managers to ensure that these conversations are handled sensitively and correctly;
  • Review the temperature of the workplace and consider how this can be adapted to suit the needs of the female employee. It may be appropriate to provide a desktop fan, place the employee’s seat near an openable window or away from a heat source;
  • Consider requests for working from home, flexible working hours or shift changes. It may be that later start times are appropriate if employees are suffering from disrupted sleep and/or night sweats.
  • Ensure there is adequate access to clean wash room facilities/toilets and potentially an area for the employees to relax without noise;
  • If the employee is required to wear a uniform, consider whether the material and/or style is appropriate for the female employee and whether you could provide uniform which is lighter and not made from synthetic material.

It was also acknowledged in the report that female employees suffering from the menopause may receive inappropriate comments from male employees which could be grounds for discrimination both on the grounds of age and on gender.

Also, depending on the severity of the symptoms of the menopause for a female employee there is the possibility that it may fall within the definition of disability discrimination for the purposes of the Equality Act.

Therefore, it is important that employers stay up to date with the information provided regarding female employees and the menopause to ensure that any matters are handled sensitively and appropriately.

Contact Nicola O'Dwyer in our Employment team if you have questions on the above.