Ministers Reject Menopause Workplace Recommendations

Calls to make menopause a protected characteristic dismissed

Government ministers have rejected the suggestion of including menopause as a protected characteristic under the Equality Act. This was one of 12 recommendations put forward by the Women and Equalities Committee to improve menopause support in the workplace.

Protected characteristics refer to aspects of an individual’s identity that cannot be discriminated against under the Equality Act 2010. There are nine protected characteristics in total, but currently this does not include menopause.

The Women and Equalities Committee argued that creating a protected characteristic for menopause would provide “direct and clear protection”, as well as recognising the impact of menopause in the workplace.

But the government has expressed concerns that this move could result in “unintended consequences” for workplaces.

Lack of menopause support “pushing women out of work”

In their report published in July 2022, the Women and Equalities Committee accused the government of making “glacial progress” on menopause support in the workplace.

They warned that as things stand, the impact of menopause is causing the UK economy to “haemorrhage talent” due to a widespread lack of awareness.

Split into three main categories, the committee set out the main issues faced by women experiencing menopause in the workplace. These included:

  • Problematic symptoms

The symptoms of menopause can make it difficult to work effectively, especially if there is not the right support in place. According to the British Menopause Society, 45% of women feel that menopause symptoms negatively affect their work.

  • Lack of support and discrimination

Less than a third of employees who took part in the Committee’s report had told a colleague or line manager about their menopause symptoms. The report also found that the extent of menopause-related discrimination was “widespread” and “shocking”.

  • Loss of income or reduced work

Because of problematic symptoms and lacking support, some women feel it necessary to cut back their hours, miss out on promotions or even leave their role.

Proposals made could be “counter-productive”

Despite the arguments put forward, the government has stated that the inclusion of menopause as a protected characteristic could have a negative impact on existing legislation.

Although ministers recognised the importance of protecting women going through menopause from discrimination, they did not believe a change to the Equality Act was necessary.

They instead pointed towards the existing protected characteristics of age, sex and disability, which they said already provide protection “against unfair treatment of employees going through menopause”.

If you’re experiencing discrimination at work, it can be difficult to know where you stand legally. We can help you work through the options available to you.

Get in touch with our friendly team to find out more or make an enquiry online.


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