First Menopause Discrimination Case in the UK: What Should Employers Keep in Mind?

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With October representing World Menopause Month, we discuss how a former social worker brought a menopause discrimination claim to an employment tribunal. It’s the first time menopause has been argued to amount to a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010 to an employment tribunal.

Also, we attempt to increase menopause awareness by looking at related workplace statistics and explore the menopause support at work employers could provide. Should you believe you’ve experienced discrimination at work, contact Redmans Solicitors today. They can discuss your case and advise you on your possible next steps.

Topics Covered

  1. Menopause in the Workplace
  2. Maria Rooney’s Menopause Discrimination Claim
  3. How Employers can Avoid Menopause Discrimination
  4. What is Menopause Discrimination?

Menopause in the Workplace

The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), the professional body for HR and people development, surveyed over 2000 people between 40 and 60 years of age. They found that 67% of menopausal women have experienced a mostly negative effect at work.

Furthermore, they outlined that 53% of respondents had to take menopause leave at some point because of their symptoms. Also, despite the CIPD finding that workplace support considerably helped, only 24% of respondents said their employer had a menopause policy.

READ: “Diversity and inclusion need to be a part of the initial thinking from the start” – Sky Group MD on DEI

The findings of the CIPD highlighted that many menopausal employees experience negative symptoms in the workplace. Moreover, they found that inadequate policies are in place to support them. One might suggest this points towards menopause discrimination in the workplace.

Maria Rooney’s Menopause Discrimination Claim

Earlier this month, Maria Rooney brought a menopause discrimination claim to an employment tribunal. She claimed she faced menopause discrimination at work after taking sick leave because of her symptoms. These symptoms included anxiety and depression, leading to her leave in 2017 and 2018.

Upon returning to work, Leicester City Council issued Ms Rooney a formal warning concerning her absences. Despite informing her employer of her symptoms and appealing the decision, her appeal was unsuccessful.

As a result, Ms Rooney resigned from her role of 12 years in October 2018. Following her resignation, she made a tribunal application in January 2019 against the council. Subsequently, in February 2022, an employment tribunal held that Ms Rooney was disabled due to her menopausal symptoms, stress and anxiety.

We now await the judgement of the employment tribunal. The hearing began at the start of October and was expected to last 16 days.

How Employers can Avoid Menopause Discrimination

With many eagerly awaiting the outcome of Ms Rooney’s claim, we discuss steps employers can take to avoid menopause discrimination. Menopause support at work could include:

  • Providing sensory maps around the workplace, highlighting the cooler working environments. One of the symptoms of menopause is hot flushes, so employees who experience this may decide to work in such an environment.
  • Training managers about how to sensitively and fairly deal with menopausal issues.
  • Providing flexible working to meet the different needs of individuals.
  • De-stigmatising women’s health issues in the workplace. Opening up and discussing these issues will create an inclusive environment where people feel supported.
  • Creating new policies that educate employees and raise menopause awareness. This includes informing colleagues about the issues menopausal women face to increase their understanding.

What is Menopause Discrimination?

Ms Rooney’s claim surrounds menopause discrimination. Under the Equality Act 2010, discrimination occurs when an individual is treated less favourably because of a protected characteristic.

READ: Top UK GP Emphasises Menopause as a Life Stage, Not a Health Concern

Protected characteristics include someone’s age or sex, but they also include disability. Since the tribunal previously concluded that Ms Rooney’s menopause amounted to a disability, she must now argue she was treated less favourably.

Being treated less favourably could include not being given opportunities other colleagues are or being caused emotional distress. However, there are times when an employer can lawfully treat an employee less favourably. 

To ensure employers don’t discriminate against their employees, they must take steps to prevent discrimination. This includes doing all they reasonably can to stop discrimination from others.

Should discrimination occur, it could take many forms, including:

  • Direct
  • In-direct
  • Victimisation
  • Harassment

Since we are currently in World Menopause Month, we hope your questions concerning menopause discrimination at work have been answered. If you have experienced menopause discrimination and have questions or want to claim, contact Redmans Solicitors today. They are experts in all areas of employment law and can assist you through the legal process if eligible.

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