Where Does Workplace Law Currently Stand on Menopause?

Thursday, September 8, 2022

The way in which employers respond to menopause in the workplace has been a hot topic in recent months.

Article 5 Minutes
Where Does Workplace Law Currently Stand on Menopause?

1 in 10 women in the UK were forced to leave their job as a result of menopausal symptoms. Despite this, menopause is not a protected workplace characteristic, with no legal framework in place to protect women in either the UK or US. In the UK, the 2010 Equality Act may protect some aspects and symptoms of menopause, however.

Issues with menopause extend from legality to understanding, with 80% of UK women who worked during menopause feeling their workplace offered no basic support, and 73% of women in the US not actively treating their menopause symptoms. According to the Menopause Experts Group, a 44% increase in menopause-related employment trials took place between 2020 and 2021.

In the UK at least, attitudes are becoming more open towards menopause as a topic for discussion, with employers  such as NHS England, the Civil Service and House of Commons signing up to the Menopause Workplace Pledge.

Where does workplace law currently stand on menopause?

Thanks to organisations like Menopause in the Workplace, discussions have taken place in recent months which highlight the impact that menopause can have upon female employees, and push employers to provide adequate support for staff members experiencing menopausal symptoms.

Despite this, however, menopause is not a protected characteristic under UK law, and as things stand, there are no plans for this to change. In May 2022, the Minister for Work and Pensions, Baroness Stedman-Scott, confirmed in a letter to a fellow MP that the 2010 Equality Act will not be amended to introduce menopause as a protected characteristic.

In the United States, there is a similar lack of legislative support for those being negatively affected by menopausal symptoms. No federal law exists that takes menopause into account as a factor affecting work performance or employment status. In fact, in Indiana courts, a worrying precedent existed during the 20th century, where menopause was used to blame women for being of unsound mind. Though the ‘menopause defence’ has been phased out, there is still a lack of legislative protection for menopausal women in the uS> 

With that said, employees who have been impacted by menopausal symptoms without proper support from their employer still have some grounds for action under UK law. The 2010 Equality Act may not include menopause as a protected characteristic in its own right, but menopausal symptoms may still be covered under other protected characteristics, such as age, sex, gender reassignment, and disability.

When symptoms of menopause have a substantial and adverse impact on your day-to-day life, there are other pieces of legislation that can be referred to for support. Earlier laws such as the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 and Public Sector Equality Duty are also at your behest, placing obligations on employers to ensure those experiencing menopausal symptoms receive the proper support.

What workplace support currently exists?

Sadly, most UK companies have offered little in the way of formal workplace support for menopause. 8 in 10 UK women employed during menopause said that their workplace had no formal support or guidance in place, with 1 in 10 women forced to leave their job as a result of menopausal symptoms. These figures have led to menopause being termed the ‘Silent Career Killer.’

Again, the lack of support available in the UK is visible on a global scale; a study from the United States indicated that American women undergoing menopause have lost up to 60% more work days than their asymptomatic colleagues. And, with statistics showing that 73% of women in the US are not actively treating their menopause systems, the disconnect extends to education both within and outside of the workplace

With such little support offered to women experiencing symptoms, the substantial impact of menopause will come as no surprise. A 44% increase in menopause-related Employment Tribunal claims between 2020 and 2021 suggests that the lack of available support is widespread, with employees beginning to take action on a wider scale.

What circumstances breach your employment rights?

The symptoms and effects of menopause are wide reaching, and can vary depending on the person in question. They include, but are not limited to, fatigue, hot flushes, anxiety, concentration and memories issues (aka brain fog), and mood swings. Under the Equality Act 2010, these symptoms could fall within the definitions of a disability – a ‘physical or mental impairment [that has] a substantial and long-term adverse effect on [one’s] ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.’

In this circumstance, long-term is generally accepted to mean lasting/recurring for 12 months or longer. This means that workplaces that fail to make reasonable adjustments for those undergoing menopause could face discrimination claims. From issues relating to uniform, to toilet breaks and time off for medical appointments, there are a wide range of issues which could breach your employment rights.

If you are treated less favourably or victimised due to your sex, gender reassignment or age (all factors which could be linked to menopause), you may also have grounds to make discrimination and harassment claims.

How is the climate changing when it comes to workplace menopause support?

Though we still have a long way to go when it comes to achieving proper support for women experiencing menopausal symptoms, there is thankfully an increasing climate of openness in terms of discussing menopause.

A number of large-scale employers like HSBC, M&S Bank, and First Direct have been granted the status of ‘Menopause Friendly Employer,’ with Huddersfield Town FC becoming the first football club to achieve the title. Meanwhile, several employers, such as NHS England, the House of Commons, and the Civil Service, have signed up to the Menopause Workpledge, with more expected to follow.

With an increasing number of employers introducing a menopause policy and dedicated training to deal with the symptoms and effects of menopause, the stage is set for employers to better support their employees through their menopausal symptoms.

Could menopause workplace support be formalized through law?

Unfortunately, there is no law that requires employers to have a menopause workplace policy in place. Likewise, there are no plans to introduce workplace laws related to workers experiencing menopausal symptoms. However, as we continue to foster a culture of openness with regards to discussion on menopause, one can hope to see changes to the government’s stance in future.

However, those facing workplace issues with regards to menopause can still receive professional advice on their working rights, including the option of filing a discrimination claim.

Anna Harbinson


Anna has worked in Employment Law since 2007, initially specialising in large scale equal pay litigation and then moving into advising on the broader spectrum of employment law issues, including discrimination, employment status and contracts, grievance and disciplinary procedures, unfair dismissal, redundancy, resignation, restrictive covenants, working time, wages, parental right and flexible working, and Trade Union rights. Anna joined Beecham Peacock Solicitors in 2013.

Anna has a detailed knowledge and understanding of employment law. Her experience of advising in this sector enables her to provide practical legal advice in an empathic way, to help clients to better understand their legal rights and obligations.


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