Government publishes response to report on menopause and the workplace

26 January 2023

The Government's response to the Women and Equalities Committee report confirms that it does not intend to introduce additional legal protections for women going through menopause. What does this mean for employers and how can they support staff?

The 'Menopause and the Workplace' report received significant attention from the press and campaigners when it was published by the Women and Equalities Committee in July 2022. The report made 12 recommendations, six of which have been accepted by the Government including:

  1. The Government will launch a public health campaign to provide accurate information about the menopause including the symptoms and details of how to seek treatment and other help such as support at work. This could be a useful resource for employers who wish to increase staff understanding of the issues and signpost reliable resources to their employees.
  2. Additional support will be available within the NHS for women experiencing menopause, including better support from GPs, additional treatments and changes to current treatments.
  3. The Government will appoint a Menopause Employment Champion to work with employers on issues specifically related to the workplace. The response clearly states that the purpose of this role will be to encourage 'employer-led' action, so we do not anticipate that this will lead to further changes being imposed on employers.

The Women and Equalities Committee report recommended that menopause be included as a 'protected characteristic' and that claims for discrimination on the basis of two characteristics (such as age and sex) be permitted. However, the Government have confirmed that there will be no consultation on changes to the Equality Act 2010, and a 12-month trial of a 'menopause leave' policy within a public sector employer was also rejected.

The response suggests that introducing these legal protections could result in unintended consequences, including discriminating against other groups, and that the Government's focus is on 'encouraging' employers to support women.

What does this mean for employers?

The Government's response recognises that women over the age of 50 represent the fastest growing segment of the workforce and with many employers struggling to fill vacancies, it is important that talented staff are retained.

There are a number of things that employers could introduce to support employees, such as:

  • Provide information to managers about the symptoms and effect of menopause so they can support staff effectively and have sensitive conversations. There are useful resources on the NHS, British Menopause Society and Acas websites.
  • Consider whether there are any particular elements of an employee's role that would make it more difficult to deal with the symptoms of menopause (such as lack of ventilation or inability to take regular breaks) and encourage staff to raise concerns so you can make adjustments if necessary.
  • Raise awareness about any support available to employees, such as Employee Assistance Programmes and flexible working.
  • Consider whether to introduce a menopause policy setting out the organisation's approach and any support available.

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