In July 2022, the Women and Equalities Committee published a report making a number of recommendations for the further protection of individuals affected by the menopause. On 24 January 2023, the government published its response to the recommendations and, in a move which will be seen by many as disappointing and a missed opportunity, has confirmed that it will not amend the Equality Act 2010 to include menopause as a protected characteristic. The government has also ruled out the introduction of menopause leave. However, the appointment of a Menopause Ambassador is supported in principle.
The recommendations of most interest to employers – and the government’s response to those recommendations – are summarised below.
|WEC recommendation||Government response|
|Appointment by the government of a Menopause Ambassador to work with business stakeholders||Accepted in principle.
The government commits to the appointment of a Menopause Employment Champion to drive forward work with employers on menopause workplace issues. The Menopause Employment Champion will be appointed in due course
|The government, in consultation with the Menopause Ambassador, produces model menopause policies to assist employers||Rejected.
The government does not believe a model menopause policy is necessary at this moment. It considers that many organisations have already introduced workplace policies and other forms of support such as menopause champions, training for employees and line managers, and signposting employees to occupational health services.
|The government should work with a large public sector employer to develop and pilot a specific ‘menopause leave’ policy||Rejected.
The government does not believe that introducing or piloting a specific policy for menopause leave is necessary. It 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, which it believes can play a vital role in supporting people to remain in work. It is concerned that specific menopause leave may be counterproductive to achieving this goal.
|The HSE and EHRC should publish guidance on the legal considerations when supporting employees experiencing menopause||Accepted in part.
The government is developing strengthened guidance that will give a set of clear and simple ‘principles’ that employers would be expected to apply, to support disabled people and those with long term health conditions in the work environment. The guidance could also apply where workers are experiencing symptoms such as those that occur in the menopause. It will be published by the Health and Safety Executive in Autumn 2022.
|The government should launch a consultation on how to amend the Equality Act to introduce a new protected characteristic of menopause, including a duty to provide reasonable adjustments for menopausal employees.||Rejected.
The government is not satisfied that the evidence fully supports new legislation, and in particular introducing menopause as a new protected characteristic, to protect women experiencing discrimination related to the effects of the menopause. The government believes that the introduction of a new protected characteristic is not the only approach, or necessarily the best approach, to addressing risks of discrimination.
The government also considers that the importance of any new legislation means that it is important to ensure that the policy is considered in the round to avoid unintended consequences which may inadvertently create new forms of discrimination, for example, discrimination risks towards men suffering from long-term medical conditions, or eroding existing protections.
While this latest development confirms that there will not be a clear legal framework specifically protecting individuals affected by menopause, all of the existing protections under the Equality Act 2010 still apply; employers must therefore remain alive to the discrimination risks which may arise when managing employees in this regard.
There is also no doubt that menopause remains a business critical issue for employers. Menopausal women are reportedly the fastest growing demographic in the workplace and, in 2019, over-50s accounted for the majority of UK employment growth. Employers cannot therefore afford to stand still in this space and should be taking proactive steps to develop their menopause strategy. Retention of talented individuals and employee wellbeing sit alongside a need to guard against tribunal claims and maintain business reputation.
DLA Piper’s Employment team can advise you on your business’ approach to menopause, assist you with implementing a menopause policy and provide training to your staff. For further information, please speak to your usual DLA Piper contact or email email@example.com.
To read our article series on Employee Wellbeing, please click on the links below:
- The business case for employers reviewing their strategy on employee support;
- The menopause: A business critical issue for employers;
- Supporting employees through baby loss and neonatal treatment;
- Supporting employees undergoing fertility treatment;
- Domestic abuse: Providing support and empowering employees.
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