HR Grapevine: - Should employers offer menopause support?

An extract from another interesting article from the team at "HR Grapevine". Click on the link to find our more or register for their regular updates:

There are a number of issues employers have to contend with to ensure that employees are given the support they need, whether that is in the form of paid maternity and paternity leave or mental health advice, employers must ensure they are putting their staff members first.

One issue that seems to fail as a priority for many employers is offering menopausal support. Something that is perhaps not given as much thought as other more commonly related issues, the need to offer support for this issue should not be ignored.

According to a new study of more than 1,000 female professionals over the age of 45 carried out by Forth With Life, around 90% of workplaces aren’t currently supporting employees with menopause-related issues.

Meanwhile, 77% of respondents who had either been through the menopause or were currently experiencing symptoms, almost none felt like they were receiving the support they needed.

Those who experience menopause symptoms may suffer from hot flashes, sleep problems, mood swings and even chills, meaning employers should think about making some necessary changes that could help staff members cope. For example, offering flexible working hours or potential remote working opportunities, as well as the addition of a fan and alternative uniforms for comfort can make a huge difference.

Speaking with Vanessa James, Partner at Ashfords Solicitors, she points out that employers do not have a duty or obligation to support employees going through the menopause, however, she says they may need to make necessary adjustments if symptoms are severe or prolonged.

“Each woman experiences the menopause differently across the spectrum of symptoms and the level of their severity. In the majority of cases it is probable that the symptoms would not have sufficient impact or have the prerequisite longevity to trigger Equality Act [2010] protection as a disability,” James tells HR Grapevine.

“However, severe symptoms over a prolonged period may do in which case the employer would need to make reasonable adjustments to support the employee in minimising the impact of those symptoms. Other possibilities might be claims of indirect sex discrimination, but as long as the employer is sympathetic, understanding and reasonable such claims should be avoided in practice.”

Certainly, more needs to be done to make women feel comfortable speaking about their wellbeing, as Forth With Life discovered that only 15% of those surveyed said that they would discuss the menopause with their superiors.

Of course, employers are under no legal obligation to offer such support for women affected by menopause, however, as more and more employees seek out employers who are actively championing health and wellbeing, the need to make this a priority is even more imperative.

“When managing the situation employers should ensure that they do so in a reasonable and structured way and recognise that sensitivity is needed as the employee may be embarrassed about the menopausal symptoms as well,” James concluded.