The UK government has published its response to the Women and Equalities Committee’s report on menopause and the workplace. While the response accepts some of the Committee’s proposals, it also confirms that the government does not propose any legislative changes or to produce a model menopause policy or trial menopause leave.
- The Women and Equalities Committee published its report on menopause and the workplace in July 2022. The government’s response outlines its approach and actions in England; the devolved administrations will determine their own policies and approach. Specifically in relation to the workplace and legal reform recommendations, the government’s response is as follows:
- Appointment of a Menopause Ambassador – The government has committed to appointing a ‘menopause employment champion’ to drive forward work with employers on menopause workplace issues and spearhead a proposed collaborative employer-led communications campaign.
- Model menopause policies – The government has rejected the Committee’s recommendation to produce model menopause policies to help employers as it considers that there is ‘no one-size-fits-all’ approach and that it is not necessary at the moment as many organisations already have workplace policies to which employers can be signposted to the relevant policies within their industry.
- Pilot menopause leave policy – The Committee had recommended that the government work with a large public sector employer to pilot a specific menopause leave policy for 12 months. The government has rejected this recommendation on the basis that their policy aim is to support women to remain in the workplace therefore specific menopause leave may be counterproductive to achieving this goal.
- Make the right to request flexible working a day one right for all employees – The government accepts this recommendation and has already announced that it is planning to do this. Please see our earlier alert on the government’s response to its flexible working consultation for further information.
- Commence section 14 of the Equality Act 2010 which would provide protection against dual characteristics discrimination – The government has rejected this proposal stating that implementation of section 14 cannot be ‘cherry picked’ so as to only provide protection for the dual characteristics of age and sex. If implemented, it would cover any dual combination of the seven protected characteristics set out in the legislation, which would create a further 20 dual protected characteristics in addition to age and sex, placing a significant additional burden on employers and service providers.
- Consultation on new protected characteristic of menopause including a duty to provide reasonable adjustments for menopausal employees – While the government agrees that it is important that women who suffer substantial and longer-term menopausal effects should be protected from discrimination in the workplace, it is not satisfied that the evidence given to the Committee during its inquiry fully supports new legislation. The Equality Act already protects against discrimination on the grounds of age, sex and disability, which should cover most menopausal women. Any legislative amendment would need to be properly considered in the round to ensure that it does not inadvertently create new forms of discrimination, for example, towards men suffering from long term medical conditions or eroding existing protections.
- While the government has accepted some of the Committee’s recommendations, it has not accepted the more substantive recommendations. Employers will therefore need to consider what menopause-related initiatives are appropriate for their own workplace. For our top tips on how to get it right, please see our article: Let’s talk about the “M” word: harnessing positive momentum on menopause in the workplace