Menopause should be a protected characteristic, MPs told

Businesses currently face ‘lack of clarity’ over their obligations to those going through the menopause, employment lawyers say

Menopause should be a protected characteristic, MPs told

The menopause should be legally protected under employment law, lawyers have told MPs.

Members of the Women and Equalities Committee heard that many women who feel they have been discriminated against because they are going through the menopause have to find legal workarounds to argue their case, often having to rely on rules around disability discrimination.

Marian Bloodworth, partner in employment law at Deloitte Legal, told the MPs that many women face discrimination – ranging from inappropriate and offensive comments to missing out on pay or promotions – simply because they are perceived to be going through the menopause and regardless of whether they experiencing symptoms.

On top of this, many women going through the menopause do have physical or mental symptoms “which literally impact your ability to work,” Bloodworth explained. “So a protected characteristic of menopause… would make it unlawful to discriminate against somebody either because they are menopausal or perimenopausal… or because there’s a perception that they are going through it,” she said.

Such a change to the legislation would also have the advantage of protecting anyone who was experiencing menopausal symptoms, including people who are trans or non-binary, said Bloodworth.

She added that there was currently a “lack of clarity” for employees and employers around businesses’ obligations to women going through the menopause, adding: “While I think [employers] generally do provide safe spaces of work, I think they’re not necessarily alive to some of the health and safety issues that the menopause can present,” she told the MPs.

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Also giving evidence at the same session, Adam Pavey, director of employment and HR at Pannone Corporate, cautioned that many women who have performance problems related to their menopausal symptoms end up being managed out.

“It’s very, very common to see women of menopausal age who are leaving employment, and very often that comes about through… performance management where an employer is saying ‘we think there might be issues with capability, you don’t seem to be performing as you were before’,” he told MPs.

The session comes just three days after research warned a million women with menopausal symptoms are under pressure to quit their jobs because they are not getting the support they need.

The poll of 2,000 women currently experiencing menopause or perimenopausal symptoms across the UK, commissioned by Koru Kids, found 18 per cent were looking to leave their jobs because of their symptoms – meaning that at least 1,057,000 of the 5.87 million menopausal or perimenopausal woman estimated to be in work could be looking to quit because of their symptoms.