My previous article entitled “The Menopause – Removing Workplace Stigma” published at the start of this year considered the legal position of menopausal workers. Since then the UK Government released its Response to the Women and Equalities Committee’s First Report concerning Menopause and the Workplace (the Response). This article considers the issues addressed by the Response and the potential considerations for employers here on the Isle of Man.
The legal position of menopausal workers addressed, for now?
The UK Government refused to introduce menopause as a standalone protected characteristic and suggests that the legal position of menopausal workers is adequately covered by the protected characteristics of age, sex and discrimination. Reference to reasonable adjustments and their commitment to reducing ill-health related job loss might suggest the UK Government consider the menopause to fall squarely within the protected characteristic of disability.
The most recent guidance produced by the Isle of Man Government concerning menopause in 2021 indicates that conditions linked to the menopause may meet the definition of an “impairment” for the purposes of disability discrimination under the Equality Act 2017.
Introducing the Menopause Champion
The Government accepted in principle the Committee’s recommendation of a “Menopause Ambassador” who would “publish a six-monthly report on the progress made by businesses, and such report should include examples of good practice as well as noting particularly poor practice”. The Government’s commitment to the appointment of a Menopause Ambassador to “drive forward work with employers on menopause workplace issues and to spearhead the proposed collaborative employer-led campaign” as outlined in the independent report commissioned through the DWP 50PLUS Roundtable.
Subsequent to the Response, Helen Tomlinson was appointed as England’s first ever Menopause Employment Champion whose role is to assist and encourage the development of workplace menopause policies with the overarching aim of reducing the premature departures of menopausal workers from the workforce.
There is currently no Menopause Employment Champion here on the Isle of Man however this is not to say it is not on the horizon and certainly does not circumvent the need for employers to consider their own role in supporting menopausal workers and adapt accordingly.
A question of policy
Despite only one of the Committee’s recommendations being wholly accepted, the Response was not all doom and gloom for menopausal workers as the Government was able to point to a multitude of schemes, guidance and initiatives already in operation both internally and externally.
Despite an outright refusal of “menopause leave” or production of a model menopause policy, the Response provides an indication as to the work that employers should be carrying out to ensure they are “well-equipped to support their workforce during the menopause”.
In lieu of a model policy, the Response suggests that employers should be directed towards relevant policies within their industry which can then be tailored and adapted accordingly. In order for the effective tailoring or introduction of any menopause policies, an employer needs to ensure that there is education and awareness at all levels.
Considerations for employers when implementing a menopause policy
With an increase in menopause claims in the UK Employment Tribunal, it would appear that now is the time for companies to be reviewing or introducing their own menopause policies in the interest of support for menopausal workers and education for all staff.
Listed below are some key considerations for employers looking to undertake a review of their approach to menopause and the workplace:
• Are staff at all levels educated?
• Are your managers trained?
• Have you fostered an open/supportive environment?
• Do you have in place a procedure for reasonable adjustments?
• Does your policy on flexible working leave you open to potential discrimination claims?
• Do you have a menopause policy?
• Do you have “top level” support?
• Do you have internal expertise?
• Are you continuously reviewing and adapting policies and procedures?
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 Menopause and Employment.pdf (thephoenixgroup.com)[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]