Menopause and the law: employers need to start making changes – or face more women leaving the workforce

Workplaces must now be seen to be making “reasonable adjustments” for women experiencing menopausal symptoms or face the possibility of being sued, under new guidance released by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC).

Women are leaving the workforce

According to research from the EHRC, two thirds of women between the ages of 40 and 60 reported a negative impact on their work caused by menopausal symptoms. One in ten said they actually felt forced into leaving their job due to the symptoms.

From the EHRC research, very few respondents felt they could ask for adjustments during that time as they were concerned about how their request would be received.

However, that will change from today.

Under the new guidance from the EHRC, businesses should consider taking measures – or “reasonable adjustment” – to make sure women going through the menopause feel comfortable enough to report their symptoms to their employer. In turn, it gives employers further guidance as to how they can meet the needs of the female workforce when requested.

What do “reasonable adjustments” look like?

The key thing to remember is that changes don’t need to be significant, it could simply mean adapting your office policy to allow women to work from home if they need to.

An adjustment could even be something like having a more relaxed dress code or uniform policy, to allow women to wear cooler clothing.

The best thing to do would be to speak to your colleagues and ask them how you can improve their working environment so that you can make reasonable adjustments based on that.

It’s also recommended to set up a focus group, or an informal training day, to make sure staff are aware of symptoms and the measures being put into place that can help. You can also tell employees how to make a request for an adjustment, and, how they can report any negative behaviour or language that ridicules someone’s symptoms. This is particularly important as behaviour of this kind could amount to harassment.

A first step

It should be noted that this new guidance is not the law, however, it is strongly recommended that employers use best practice approaches. Also, those who do not follow the guidance could find themselves subject to a disability discrimination, if a woman’s symptoms – like brain fog, or difficulty sleeping – are severe enough to be classed as a disability.

It’s a big step towards progression and at Downs we’ve been working with many businesses that are keen to make sure they are doing all they can to promote an inclusive working environment where everyone is supported.

If you would like to find out more information or would like further guidance about how to bring in new adjustments for your staff, contact Downs Solicitors to see how we can help.

Heather Love

Heather Love


Tel: +44 (0) 1483 411516

Office: Godalming Office