23rd February 2024

Important legal update: Menopause

By Annabel Doyle

Important legal update: Menopause…

The Menopause – Is it a Workplace Issue?

Yes, recent studies have shown that a large number of women have left employment due to lack of support when going through the menopause. A CIPD Report published in October 2023 found that 1 in 6 women have considered leaving employment for these exact reasons.

According to an NHS Survey carried out in 2022, it was estimated that around 13 million people in the UK were either currently going through menopause or have reached the menopause. This is equivalent to one third of the entire female population in the UK. So, what reasonable adjustments have you put in place? If the answer is none, now is the time to do so.


Hot off the press: The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has just issued guidance on 22 February 2024 confirming that menopause symptoms could be considered a disability under the Equality Act 2010 (“the Act”) and that employers have a legal duty to make reasonable adjustments for employees going through the menopause or perimenopause. A link to the guidance can be found here.

Due to the lack of awareness and understanding about the menopause, there has been a long-standing campaign for not only greater awareness among employers but greater legal protection for women at work. Most women will go through the menopause and experience symptoms to a varying degree. However, two thirds of women, aged between 40 and 60 in employment who experience menopausal symptoms reported a mostly negative effect on them at work (according to a CIPD report in 2023).

The Legal Position

Menopause is not a protected characteristic under the Act. However, this recent guidance from the EHRC confirms that it could be considered a disability under the Act. This means if an employee or worker is put at a disadvantage and treated less favourably because of their menopause symptoms this could be considered disability discrimination.

If a woman can show that the symptoms of her menopause have a long term and substantial impact on her ability to carry out normal day to day activities, she could be protected under the Act from disability discrimination.

In addition, where an individual is found to have a disability as defined under the Act, the employer has a legal duty to make reasonable adjustments for that individual. Failure to do so could result in disability discrimination and you could face financial liability in the Employment Tribunals.

A woman going though the menopause may also be protected under the Act from discrimination (direct or indirect) harassment or victimisation on the grounds of age and/or sex.

What reasonable adjustments can be made?

There is no one size fits all and what benefits one individual, may not benefit another. You should discuss with each individual separately, what reasonable adjustments they would benefit from.

This could include but is not limited to: access to cold water, desk fans, showers and access to facilities, use of a quiet room, referral to Occupational Health, compulsory training for managers, differing start and finish times, more frequent rest breaks, home working and other flexible working arrangements.

To be able to make reasonable adjustments for employees, you need to ensure there is a culture of support, openness, and empathy, in addition to maintaining confidentiality. You should create and/or update any policies on menopause and ensure all staff are aware of its existence and effect.

Do your managers understand the menopause and how they can support their staff?

Ensure managers understand the symptoms of menopause, how this could be affecting their staff and what they can do to support them at work. This requires training – thorough and good quality training. General training of all staff on the menopause will also be beneficial to boost awareness and develop a supportive framework within the workplace.

Need a hand?

We offer interactive and engaging training on all workplace issues including menopause in the workplace.

For all enquires in the North West, please contact David Gibson at dgi@burnetts.co.uk for more information.

For all enquires in the North East, please contact Annabel Doyle at ald@burnetts.co.uk for more information.

If you have any questions about anything included within this article or would benefit from further legal advice, please feel free to get in touch on 01228 552222 and we’ll be happy to help.