A PARLIAMENTARY review is underway which could recommend that menopause is made a ‘protected characteristic’ under the Equality Act 2010.

This would outlaw discrimination as is already the case for other protected characteristics such as age, disability, race, religion and sex.

Business law specialist Baines Wilson is warning businesses that it could soon be unlawful to discriminate against women who are going through the menopause.

Joanne Holborn, partner and head of employment and training at Baines Wilson, says that – even as the law stands – businesses could face a claim for age, disability or sex discrimination if they fail to make reasonable adjustments to accommodate the needs of staff going through the menopause.

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Ms Holborn is urging businesses to provide equality and diversity training and raise staff awareness to improve knowledge and understanding.

"This could be as simple as putting up posters in communal areas, outlining what the menopause is, when it occurs and the affect it can have.

"Employers should encourage those who require any workplace adjustments to manage their symptoms, to request these from the appropriate individual within the company – ensuring each request is dealt with sensitively.

 "Additionally, employers should review the policies they have to ensure they cater for those experiencing menopausal symptoms and consider implementing a menopause policy," she said.

The warning to businesses comes after The House of Commons Women and Equalities Committee published results of a survey, which found that nearly a third of women going through the menopause have missed work because of symptoms.

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It also found that only one-in-10 women had asked for workplace adjustments. Those who had not said they were “worried about the reaction of others” or did not know who to ask.

Typically, the menopause affects women between 45 and 55. Menopausal women are the fastest growing demographic in the workforce. Symptoms can include anxiety, mood swings, brain fog, hot flushes and irregular periods.

Around 80 per cent of menopausal women are in work and 88 per cent of these say the menopause has had an impact on their working life.

Baines Wilson, which has offices in Carlisle and Lancaster, has recorded a 14-minute podcast where Joanne Holborn explains how the menopause affects employees, what employers should be aware of and how they can support staff who are experiencing this.

For more information on how to manage the menopause at work, contact Baines Wilson’s employment team on 01228 552600 or 01524 548494.

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