Probe launched on potential menopause discrimination in workplace
A Government inquiry has been launched to determine if workplace discrimination is taking place after nearly one million women have left their jobs because of menopause problems.
Due to the large proportion of women leaving the workforce, the cross-party Women and Equalities Committee launched an inquiry to scrutinise existing legislation and workplace practices around the menopause and the impact it is having on gender equality.
The menopause is a natural stage of life for women, usually in their late forties/early fifties. It can also happen earlier or later. For many women symptoms last about four years, but in some cases can last longer – up to 12 years.
Menopause is not just a female issue, it’s an organisational issue. All managers need to know about it and how they can support their staff. Awareness on this topic is fundamental and reducing the stigma attached to it is vital so that more people will talk openly about it.
According to committee chair, Caroline Nokes MP, three in every five women are negatively affected at work as a result of the menopause, and it is having a knock-on impact on the number of women in senior positions, as well as the gender pay gap.
She explained: “The repercussions of that are not merely individual. Excluding menopausal women from the workplace is detrimental to our economy, our society and our place on the world stage.
“Despite the fact that hundreds of thousands of women in the UK are currently going through the menopause, a process that can be both physically and mentally draining, it is ignored in legislation.”
In its inquiry the committee seeks to uncover the nature of menopause discrimination, review whether existing legislation needs to change, and consider the difficulties of going through menopause faced by those who do not identify as women.
It is currently calling for evidence from organisations and individuals about the way things are currently done.
The Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas) has provided guidance and says menopause symptoms can include:
- feeling tired and lacking energy
- hot flushes
- feeling anxious and panic attacks
- struggling to concentrate or focus
- headaches including migraines
Its guidance includes tips for workers on how to raise any concerns and good practice for employers to help manage menopause at work. Top tips include:
- create and implement a menopause policy
- provide awareness training for managers to deal with any concerns in a sensitive way
- create an open and trusted culture within the team
- make changes where possible such as altering working hours
- implement low-cost environmental changes such as providing desk fans
- be aware of employment laws that can relate to menopause issues at work such as the risks of sex, disability or age discrimination.
Acas is a Government body set up to improve organisations and working life through the promotion and facilitation of strong industrial relations practice.
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