New advice on menopause for employers

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Menopause symptoms could now be classed as a disability, so employers need to get up to speed to ensure they are supporting staff and complying with the law. In this article, we cover everything you need to know…

The changes are the result of an employment tribunal brought by a female social worker against her employer, Leicester City Council. Back in 2017 and 2018. Maria Rooney took extended sick leave due to her menopause symptoms. She was subsequently given a formal warning about her absences, before resigning in October 2018 and lodging claims against the council.

In February 2022, following preliminary hearings and an appeal, the tribunal decided that Rooney was disabled by her menopause symptoms, combined with feelings of stress and anxiety. The fact that menopause can now be classed as a disability in the workplace has major implications for UK employers.

What is menopause?

According to the NHS, menopause affects women between 45 and 55 when periods stop due to lower hormone levels. Symptoms usually occur naturally, but can be brought about due to surgery, cancer treatments or genetic reasons. Typical symptoms are anxiety, mood swings, brain fog, hot flushes and irregular periods.

Women with perimenopause have symptoms of menopause but their periods have not stopped. Perimenopause ends when a women reaches menopause (not had a period for 12 months).

What is the new guidance?

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), Britain’s equality watchdog, has published practical advice on menopause in the workplace, to help businesses to make reasonable adjustments and promote positive dialogue on the issue.

The aim is to prevent women from experiencing negative treatment due to menopausal symptoms, and encouraging employers to make workplace adjustments.

The case highlighted above proves that menopause symptoms can have a long-term impact on a woman’s ability to work, meaning it can be classed as a disability. The Equality Act 2010 states that an employer has a legal obligation to make reasonable adjustments and to not discriminate against a disabled worker. Furthermore, because menopause affects middle-aged women, there is an extra layer of protection on the grounds of age and sex.

What is the advice on menopause for employers?

EHRC has issued new guidance, including a video, that explains the steps organisations can take to reduce the effect of menopause on female staff. The measures include allocating a rest or quiet room, improved cooling systems for women with hot flushes, relaxing dress codes, providing cooler workwear and offering more flexible work locations and shift patterns.

Employers need to make the call that someone’s menopause symptoms are serious enough to be seen as a disability, and are then legally obliged to make reasonable adjustments.

Need advice on menopause in the workplace?

As an HR consultant, I advise my clients to review and update their policies and procedures to take into account the ruling on menopause. For example, the new guidance means employers should take a close look at their health and safety risk assessments to protect women from workplace risks.

JT HRConsultancy is an established HR services company based in Bedfordshire with clients across the UK. If you need help of advice on menopause or other employment issues, visit my contact page, call me on 07715 026128 or email

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