Employment Department

Employers need to be aware of Menopause and its difficulties.

12th October 2023 Stuart Seagrove

Employers need to be aware of Menopause and the ongoing difficulties caused by not treating employees suffering with the symptoms of Menopause fairly.

On 2nd October 2023 the Leicester Employment Tribunal started hearing a claim brought by a social worker against a council over her treatment while she experienced menopause symptoms.

The Claim asserts that the social worker was “discriminated against, harassed and victimised” on the grounds of disability and sex after having suffered from menopause symptoms, anxiety and depression which led to her having to take extended periods of sickness leave.

Despite disclosing her medical issues relating to menopause she received a formal warning for her absence.  It was also asserted that she had received “unfavourable treatment” related to her absences including inappropriate comments about her menopause symptoms.

In a preliminary hearing the Employment Tribunal that the Social Worker was at all material times suffering from a disability and that her disability was “by virtue of her symptoms of menopause combined with symptoms of stress and anxiety”.

This is one of the first cases where it has been decided that menopause symptoms can amount to a disability for the purposes of the Equality Act, albeit any future cases will rest on their own circumstances and the level to which the effects of any symptoms for those individuals meet the relevant test for disability under the Equality Act.  It does however indicate that Tribunals are prepared to accept significant effects of menopause as amounting to a protected characteristic of a disability.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission are supporting the claimant in this case and prior to the start of the hearing, Baroness Kishwer Falkner, Chairwoman of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, said:

“Menopause symptoms can significantly affect someone’s ability to work. Employers have a responsibility to support employees going through the menopause – it is to their benefit to do so, and the benefit of the wider workforce. Every employer should take note of this hearing.

“We will soon be launching new guidance for employers, so they have the resources to ensure they are looking after their staff who are going through the menopause, and we will encourage all employers to use it.”

Baroness Falkner added: “As Britain’s equality regulator, we will continue to intervene in cases such as this and hold employers to account by using our unique powers.”

This case of Rooney v Leicester City Council is likely to be an important one to be aware of in circumstances where employers are needing to be mindful of some of the difficult effects that the menopause can case and how to seek to help the employee deal with those effects whilst also being able to fulfil their roles.

Contact Biscoes’ employment law specialists on 01983 615615 or at info@biscoes-law.co.uk

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