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Menopause: EHRC publishes new guidance for employers

28 February 2024
The Equality and Human Rights Commission ("EHRC") has published new workplace guidance to help employers understand their legal obligations in relation to supporting workers experiencing menopausal symptoms.

The EHRC Menopause in the workplace: Guidance for employers outlines the impact menopause symptoms can have on women in the workplace.  CIPD research found that 67% of working women between the ages of 40 and 60 with experience of menopausal symptoms said that they have had a mostly negative impact on them at work.  Significantly, over half of respondents were able to think of a time when they were unable to go into work due to their menopause symptoms.  Research by the Fawcett Society found that one in ten women surveyed who were employed during the menopause actually left work due to menopause symptoms. 

Menopause and the Equality Act 2010 ("the Act")

Under the Act, workers are protected against discrimination, harassment and victimisation.  A woman with menopausal symptoms who is discriminated against may be able to bring a claim for disability, sex and/or age discrimination under the Act.  Videos embedded into the guidance explain how someone with symptoms of the menopause could be considered to be disabled under the Act providing they meet the statutory definition of disability.  If the menopause symptoms have a substantial and long-term adverse effect on a worker's ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities the definition will be met.  If the symptoms do amount to the worker being classed as disabled, employers will be under a duty to make reasonable adjustments. It is estimated that only 1 in 5 women do not suffer noticeable symptoms due to menopause and the number who could fall within the definition of disabled under the Act is therefore likely to be significant.

Legal protection

The video footage in the guidance provides a useful overview and examples of the various legal protections available for those with menopause symptoms:

Risk assessments - The guidance reminds employers that they have a legal obligation under health and safety legislation to conduct an assessment of their workplace risks. 

Reasonable adjustments - The guidance goes on to say that it is good practice to consider how the physical working environment, such as room temperature and ventilation, may affect women experiencing menopausal symptoms.  Rest areas or quiet rooms are also recommended, as well as cooling systems or fans for women experiencing hot flushes.  Uniform policies could be relaxed to allow cooler clothing to be worn and flexible working could also be considered.  The guidance makes it clear that failure to take appropriate steps could amount to a failure to make reasonable adjustments if the worker is classed as disabled.

Indirect discrimination - When a provision, criterion or practice ("PCP") at the workplace disadvantages women experiencing menopausal symptoms this could amount to indirect disability, sex or age discrimination.  A PCP could for example be a uniform policy.  To defend such a claim employers would need to justify the PCP by showing it is a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim. 

Discrimination arising from disability – Disciplining a woman for high sickness absence levels when the absence relates to menopausal symptoms could amount to discrimination arising from a disability.  Again, employers seeking to defend such a claim would need to show that the treatment was a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim. 

Harassment – Language that ridicules a worker in relation to their menopausal symptoms could amount to harassment related to age, sex or disability. The provisions of the Act include the impact on the person who is the subject of the harassment and intent is not required for a successful claim.

Workers will also be protected against direct discrimination and victimisation in relation to the menopause. 

Open conversations

The guidance encourages employers to have open conversations about the menopause, including with managers and the rest of the workforce.  Training, lunch and learn session and a clear menopause policy are all suggested routes to help promote an open dialogue. 

Celebrating World Menopause Day, running campaigns to promote awareness and allyship training can also help to put the menopause on the agenda in a positive way. 


The new guidance provides a useful reminder for employers on how they can help support their workforce.  The case for supporting colleagues with menopause symptoms is well versed with clear benefits for the wellbeing of the workforce, increased productivity and helping to attract and retain valuable talent.  The skillset and experience this segment of the workforce has should not be underestimated.  With labour supply presenting real problems for some sectors, this guidance should prove to be a useful reminder for employers on how to retain valuable workers. 

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 need any assistance with regard to the menopause and the workplace please do not hesitate to get in touch. 

Further Reading