'Remove the stigma' | Menopause tribunals are rising as more staff call out bad HR policies

Menopause tribunals are rising as more staff call out bad HR policies

Employment tribunals relating to menopause are on the rise, new data has revealed.

Figures released by the Menopause Experts Group show that these legal cases rose by 44% in 2021, with 23 cases referencing it compared to 16 the previous year. And cases in which ‘menopause’ was mentioned, but was not the main legal challenge, also increased by 75%, the data showed.

And the issue has been growing for several years. The Menopause Experts Group released similar data last year, which showed that menopause-related tribunals had quadrupled between 2017 and the first half of 2021.

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Trade Union Congress (TUC) figures show that nine out of ten workers going through menopause said it affected their working life. And data gathered by the campaign’s organisers, Wellbeing of Women, found that around 900,000 women have quit their jobs because of the menopause.

The charity warns that, without proper workplace support for women, symptoms of menopause such as anxiety, brain fog, fatigue, poor memory, hot flushes, and irregular and heavy bleeding can lead to:

  • Loss of confidence

  • Decreased productivity

  • Taking time off work

  • Less satisfaction with their job

  • Making the difficult decision to leave the workforce

This rapid rise in menopause-related tribunals raise important questions, chief among them being ‘what has changed?’ Have workplace attitudes gotten worse? Or have staff felt more empowered to raise their concerns?

Dee Murray, founder and chief executive officer of Menopause Experts Group, shed light on the issue, saying: “Too many policies aren’t taking women’s needs into account, and more and more employees are showing that they are happy to stand up for themselves.

“The lack of education is dangerous for women’s health and unfair to their careers.”

Murray had also previously commented: “We regularly hear horror stories about how women are discriminated against in the workforce, and sadly menopause is one area where employers keep getting it wrong.”

“This dramatic rise in the number of employment tribunals citing menopause shows how women are standing up for themselves against out-dated and ill-informed bosses. The lack of education is dangerous for women’s health and unfair to their careers.

“What’s frustrating is the fact that there are so many training courses available to employers. Teaching our colleagues about menopause is vital if we are going to remove the stigma surrounding what is a big part of a woman's life,” Murray added.

What the law says

Although menopause is not a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010, Acas states that if an employee is put at a disadvantage and treated less favourably because of their menopause symptoms, this could be discrimination

According to Alex Christen, an Employment Lawyer at Capital Law, advises that claims which could arise include indirect sex and disability discrimination; sex, disability and age-related harassment; victimisation; failure to make reasonable adjustments; and unfair dismissal.”

He explained: “Failing to fulfil these duties may bring legal consequences. If a woman experiencing the menopause is treated detrimentally because of menopausal symptoms and these are not taken into account within policies or practices, it could potentially give rise to claims.”

How HR can support affected employees

HR Grapevine has previously reported on several firms that have rolled out new policies around menopause.

For example, in April 2022, more than 600 UK-based companies, including the likes of BBC, Tesco, Royal Mail, Asos, TSB, KPMG and the John Lewis Partnership, signed a pledge to make workplaces more supportive for staff going through menopause.

Additionally, sustainable brand Modibodi previously announced a new policy that offers staff paid leave for menstruation, menopause and miscarriage.

Elsewhere, the multinational company Diageo announced its first ever global Menopause Guidelines under the banner of ‘Thriving Through Menopause’.

Previous research shared by the CIPD also highlighted the impact that the menopause can have on employees. The data found that 59% of working women between the ages of 45 and 55-years-old who are experiencing menopause symptoms said it has a negative impact on them at work.

The research also highlighted the need for additional support in the workplace, as 48% of respondents stated that they feel supported by their colleagues, while just 32% said they felt supported by their managers.

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