The response recognises the significance of this topic and the importance of employers helping to support employees experiencing menopausal symptoms. Some of the key points to note from the response include:
Menopause employment champion: The government will take forward the recommendation of appointing a menopause employment champion to drive forward work with employers on menopause workplace issues and to spearhead the proposed collaborative employer-led campaign. A key element of the role will be to give menopausal women a voice, promote their economic contributions and work with employers to keep people experiencing menopause symptoms in work and progressing.
Menopause as a protected characteristic: The government does not accept the recommendation that menopause should be introduced as a new protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010. According to the response, sex, age and disability are all protected characteristics in the Equality Act 2010 which provide protection against unfair treatment of employees going through the menopause.
Menopause leave: The government does not accept the recommendation that a pilot "menopause leave" policy should be set up. With the goal of supporting people to remain in the workplace, the government is focusing its efforts on disseminating best practice and encouraging employers to implement workplace menopause policies and other forms of support such as flexible working. The government is concerned that specific menopause leave may be counterproductive to achieving this goal.
Model menopause policies: The government is not taking forward the recommendation that model policies should be produced covering: how to request reasonable adjustments and other support; advice on flexible working; sick leave for menopause symptoms; and provisions for education, training and building a supportive culture. The government does not believe a model menopause policy is necessary at the moment. The government recognises the importance of employers helping support employees experiencing menopause symptoms and is supportive of the aim to educate and inform employers and workplace colleagues about the potential symptoms of the menopause. According to the response there is much work underway already and the government wants to focus on highlighting and sharing best practice, which will avoid the risk of duplication of efforts – for example there is already guidance available from Acas.
The government has also rejected the recommendation that section 14 of the Equality Act 2010 should be commenced. Section 14 concerns cases where a person discriminates against another person "because of a combination of two relevant protected characteristics". The government is concerned about the significant additional burden which commencement of section 14 would place on employers and service providers.
Some were hoping for more far-reaching reform, including recognising the menopause as a protected characteristic. However the government maintain that women's health remains a top priority.
Menopause is undoubtedly a business critical issue. What is clear is that employers are at risk of losing talent, employment tribunal claims and poor employee morale if they fail to take proactive steps to manage and support menopause in the workplace.
Despite the lack of radical change menopause is still very much in the spotlight and there are a number of steps employers can take to support their employees – from raising awareness through education and training, to making adjustments, to implementing a menopause policy. Please see our update Menopause and the Workplace which includes some practical suggestions on how employers can help to support employees going through the menopause.
If you would like any assistance with regard to menopause and the workplace please do not hesitate to get in touch.