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Menopause symptoms and reasonable adjustments in the workplace

The equalities watchdog, the Equality and Human Rights Commission (“EHRC”) have provided guidance to companies to clarify their legal obligations toward women experiencing the menopause.

Under the Equality Act 2010 (“EqA”) a person has a disability if they have a physical or mental impairment that has a “substantial” and “long term” negative effect on their ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.

If an employee meets the above criteria, employers are under an obligation to make any reasonable adjustments that might be required by the employee to assist them in carrying out their role. The EHRC have provided that reasonable adjustments for menopausal women could include allowing them to work from home, relaxing dress codes, providing better ventilation or providing rest areas.

In their advice, the EHRC cited research demonstrating that 1 in 10 women who worked whilst experiencing the menopause were forced to leave because of their symptoms. Symptoms of the menopause include, but are not limited to; hot flushes, brain fog, anxiety (which can be a disability under the EqA in itself) or difficulty sleeping.

The EHRC are “concerned both by how many women report being forced out of a role due to their menopause-related symptoms and how many don’t feel safe enough to request the workplace adjustments”.

If an employer fails to make reasonable adjustments, this could give rise to claims against the organisation under the EqA. In addition, the employee could resign, citing a breach of trust and confidence, leading to a further claim for constructive dismissal under the Employment Rights Act.

It is imperative that an employer understands their obligations in order to provide a supportive working environment and reduce the risk of future claims.


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