The UK government has largely rejected recommendations to reform the existing legal framework for employees experiencing menopause, instead promoting employer-led education and support. In this article, we review the government’s response to the House of Commons Women and Equalities Committee’s (the “WEC”) July 2022 report, “Menopause and the workplace” (the “WEC Report”), and consider what it means for employers.

The WEC Report considered the ways in which menopause affects women* in work and, in its own words, “wanted to understand what drove women to leave their jobs, the impact on the economy of haemorrhaging talent in this way, and the legal redress for women who have suffered menopause-related discrimination.” It made a number of recommendations to address the needs of menopausal employees and drive change, ranging from the publication of guidance and the appointment of a Menopause Ambassador, to larger scale reform of the legal framework.

The government has now confirmed that it will not be adopting the majority of the recommendations. The Chair of the WEC has voiced their disappointment and concern with the response, deeming it a “missed opportunity”.

The Report’s main recommendations and the government’s responses relevant to employers and the workplace are summarised below.

The main takeaway is that the existing legal framework is here to stay and the government is expecting employers to take primary responsibility for driving awareness and support of menopause in the workplace (supported by the Menopause Employment Champion). With women over 50 the fastest growing demographic in the workforce, there are stark commercial (as well as legal and social) reasons to do so. Employers should also remain mindful of the discrimination risks under the current legal framework. Indeed, a growing number of Employment Tribunal claims reference menopause, with the Menopause Experts Group finding a 44% increase in cases citing the menopause from 2020 to 2021.  Meanwhile, it is evident that steps are also needed to retain talent, maintain employee morale and reduce stigma. For example, the Fawcett Society found that one in ten women have left work due to menopause symptoms and that 41% of respondents had seen menopause or menopause symptoms treated as a joke by colleagues.

We can also expect employer support for menopausal employees to remain on the political agenda as the Labour Party last week pledged to introduce a requirement for large employers (250+ employees) to publish and implement a “menopause action plan” setting out how they are supporting their employees experiencing menopausal symptoms. The Party would also release government guidance advising employers on how best to support menopausal employees.

Steps available to employers to support employees experiencing menopause and enhance workplace culture include:

  • Providing training, raising awareness and collating relevant information (such as via employee intranet sites);
  • Making flexible working arrangements and accommodating other adjustments, such as to workplace temperatures and uniforms (if applicable);
  • Developing a specific menopause policy, as well as reviewing and updating other relevant policies;
  • Considering the needs of menopausal staff when conducting risk assessments; and
  • Signing and taking positive action in accordance with the Menopause Workplace Pledge.

*While this article refers to menopausal women, the issues apply equally to individuals who do not identify as women but nevertheless experience menopause.