Companies must make ‘reasonable adjustments’ for menopausal women, new guidance states

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Employers could face legal action if they fail to make “reasonable adjustments” for women who are experiencing menopause symptoms, under new guidance issued by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC).

Adjustments listed by the EHRC include the provision of cooler workspaces and rest areas, the relaxation of uniform policies and allowing staff to work from home.

The guidance, issued by the regulator on 22 February, states that if menopause symptoms have a “long term and substantial impact on a woman’s ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities”, they may be considered a disability. Workers will also be able to make discrimination claims on the grounds of age or sex if they receive “less favourable treatment” related to menopause symptoms.

Under the Equality Act 2010, employers are legally obliged to make reasonable adjustments and to not discriminate against workers with disabilities.

Two-thirds of women said menopause symptoms had a negative impact on them at work. Photograph: iStock/izusek

Symptoms of the menopause, which typically affects women between the ages of 40 and 60, include hot flushes, sleep problems and brain fog.

The EHRC cited research showing that one in 10 women had left their jobs due to menopause symptoms, while two-thirds of women said the symptoms had a negative impact on them at work. Yet, “very few” workers request workplace adjustments because of concerns about potential reactions, said the regulator.

Writing in Safety Management earlier this year, Lauren Chiren, chief executive and founder of Women of a Certain Stage – which provides menopause coaching services to employers – said that only 26 per cent of UK companies offered formal menopause policies. Workplaces that did provide adjustments, wrote Chiren, saw an 80 per cent boost in staff retention.  

Reacting to the new guidance, Chiren said: “I’m delighted the EHRC has shone a light on employers’ obligations on supporting people through menopause. Using existing regulations is a great start and keeping this conversation moving forward is essential.”

Chiren added that she sees “too many people leaving or being managed out of roles through lack of support", noting: “It’s a win-win for employers and colleagues alike to ensure we get the right messaging and support in place.” 

Jigna Patel, chief technical and operations officer at the British Safety Council, has welcomed the EHRC’s new guidance, noting that it is “helpful” of the watchdog to make clear to employers what their duties are under the law.

“Making reasonable adjustments is what employers are required to do for any member of staff with a disability or long-term health condition. Those experiencing menopausal symptoms which substantially impact their wellbeing and their ability to work over the long-term should be treated the same,” said Patel.

“It is great that the menopause is being given proper recognition, and I would urge employers to engage with their staff, review policies and arrangements, and train managers and staff to better understand the impacts of menopause and how to appropriately support those who are experiencing difficulties, so that they can continue to thrive in the workplace.” 

EHRC chair Baroness Kishwer Falkner said the equality watchdog had been “concerned both by how many women report being forced out of a role due to their menopause-related symptoms and how many don’t feel safe enough to request workplace adjustments”. She added that many employers do not fully understand their responsibility to protect workers going through the menopause.

“Our new guidance sets out these legal obligations for employers and provides advice on how they can best support their staff,” said Baroness Falkner.


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