World Menopause Day came in the wake of a huge increase in publicity and discussion around the issue. Menopause is one of the last health taboos and is rarely discussed in the workplace. The menopause can be a very stressful and sensitive time for a female employee and for an employer it is a health and wellbeing concern that needs careful handling. For pub, restaurant and hotel operators to retain valuable female staff, and to stay on the right side of the law, it is important that there is awareness of adjustments that may need to be made.
ACAS has published guidance to assist employers to support staff through the menopause and to have the best chance of retaining staff and skills through this often difficult time.
The guidance covers issues such as introducing a menopause policy, staff training, making changes such as altering working hours and providing low cost equipment such as fans.
Potential legal claims
As an employer you should be aware that a woman who feels that she has been less favourably treated because she is going through the menopause may have one or more of the following claims against her employer:
Sex Discrimination – if when a woman’s menopause leads to a drop in performance her symptoms are treated less seriously than a male’s health concerns which lead to a drop in his performance then this may be the foundation for a discrimination claim. Any unwanted banter or jokes about a woman’s menopause could amount to sexual harassment.
Age Discrimination – unfair treatment of women in their late forties or early fifties because they are going through the menopause might amount to age discrimination.
Disability Discrimination – a woman’s menopause symptoms could amount to a disability which means an employer must consider making reasonable adjustments to remove or minimise the disadvantages which the woman is experiencing because of her menopause.
Reading the ACAS guide may help an employer avoid a potential discrimination claim.
An employer is also under a duty under the Health and Safety at Work Act to ensure that health and safety checks are carried out regularly and that risk is minimised and reduced if possible. You must ensure that menopause symptoms are not made worse by the working environment and you should make changes to help an employee manage her symptoms at work. Your risk assessment should consider factors such as:
- Office ventilation/temperature;
- Availability of cold water;
- Whether uniforms could be making employees hot or itchy if they are made of unnatural materials
The ACAS guidance covers the importance of staff training and how to carefully manage conversations and absences or dips in performance.
The ACAS guide can be found HERE