Tackling taboos on menopause in the workplace
Employers are being advised to review their support for women experiencing problems in the workplace because of the menopause and its associated symptoms or risk compensation claims, following an employment tribunal ruling.
Mandy Davies had an unblemished 20 year service record, but was sacked by the Scottish Courts and Tribunal Service (SCTS) following an incident that led to a health and safety investigation and, later, to disciplinary procedures. The woman won her case for unfair dismissal and discrimination and she was awarded more than £19,000 and given her job back.
The tribunal heard that Mandy Davies suffered significant medical problems as a result of going through the menopause, sometimes experiencing heavy bleeding for several weeks, together with stress, memory loss and tiredness, and was at a risk of fainting. It was suggested that these symptoms were the catalyst behind the incident which resulted in her dismissal for gross misconduct.
In the UK, the number of women at work in their fifties has risen steadily and the ruling is expected to drive further awareness of the topic, which until recently has been typically taboo for many employers.
Said employment law expert and managing partner, Paul Reader of Berry & Lambert’s solicitors: “In the past there has been a stigma around discussing issues to do with women’s health, similar to the taboo concerning mental health, but those boundaries are breaking down and employers are beginning to place more focus on their staff wellbeing. ”
He added: “It just requires a shift in attitude for many to understand that the impact for some women going through the menopause will be the same as having a long-term health condition, for which reasonable adjustments may have to be made.
As well as being responsive to the situation, good employers should consider introducing a policy that addresses the issues and clearly signposts the help available. Raising awareness amongst all staff, and in particular empowering managers to recognise where an individual may be suffering from menopausal symptoms will all help towards supporting the engagement and retention of talented workers.”