Menopause in the workplace - UK Government's response
27 February 2023 | Applicable law: England and Wales | 2 minute read
The House of Commons Women and Equalities Committee submitted its report on ‘Menopause and the Workplace’ on 28 July 2022.
As we reported at the time the House of Commons’ Women and Equalities Committee published its ‘Menopause and the workplace’ survey results on 23 February 2022, revealing the extent of the impact of menopause on women at work. The Committee followed the survey with its report on ‘Menopause and the Workplace’ on 28 July 2022. The report made widespread recommendations, including:
- appointing a ‘menopause ambassador’ to work with stakeholders from business, unions and advisory groups to encourage and disseminate awareness, good practice and menopause guidance to employers;
- in consultation with the menopause ambassador, produce model menopause policies to assist employers;
- work with a large public sector employer to pilot a specific ‘menopause leave’ policy;
- immediately commence s 14 of the Equality Act 2010 (EqA) (combined discrimination: dual characteristics) to introduce sex and age as a single dual protected characteristic to protect women going through menopause;
- launch a consultation on how to amend the EqA to make menopause a protected characteristic, including a duty to provide reasonable adjustments for menopausal employees.
On 24 January 2023, the Government published its response. It accepted, in principle, the Committee's recommendation to appoint a ‘menopause employment champion’ to work with employers to promote menopause workplace issues and develop a communications campaign.
The Government, however, did not accept three of the main recommendations.
It will not produce model menopause policies, stating they are not currently necessary as steps are already being taken by employers and organisations, including the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) and ACAS, to develop workplace menopause policies and guidance.
It will not bring into force s 14 EqA on dual discrimination. The Government takes the view that this is not a step that can be taken 'piecemeal' by reference only to certain characteristics (in this instance sex and age) and to introduce it across all the protected characteristics covered by the EqA would impose a potential additional burden on employers and service providers that is not justified at the present time.
The Government also rejected the proposal to launch a consultation on making menopause itself a protected characteristic, which it does not consider to be justified by the evidence presented to the Committee. It does however express its support for the importance of discrimination protection for women who suffer substantial and longer-term menopausal effects.
The outcome will be disappointing to many women and groups campaigning for specific legal protection for women. Employers who already recognise that menopause is an important issue affecting large numbers of their employees will nevertheless be able to look for guidance in the substantial body of policy guidance that bodies such as Acas and the CIPD are producing.
Employers may additionally wish to consider implementing some of the adjustments suggested by employees in the previous survey including providing flexibility to employees, setting out a clear menopause workplace policy and developing support networks.