In July 2022, the Women and Equalities Committee published a report making a number of recommendations for the further protection of individuals affected by the menopause. On 24 January 2023, the government published its response to the recommendations and, in a move which will be seen as many as disappointing and a missed opportunity, has confirmed that it will not amend the Equality Act 2010 to include menopause as a protected characteristic. The government has also ruled out the introduction of menopause leave. However, the appointment of a Menopause Ambassador is supported in principle.
The recommendations of most interest to employers – and the government’s response to those recommendations – are summarised below.
While this latest development confirms that there will not be a clear legal framework specifically protecting individuals affected by menopause, all of the existing protections under the Equality Act 2010 still apply; employers must therefore remain alive to the discrimination risks which may arise when managing employees in this regard.
There is also no doubt that menopause remains a business critical issue for employers. Menopausal women are reportedly the fastest growing demographic in the workplace and, in 2019, over-50s accounted for the majority of UK employment growth. Employers cannot therefore afford to stand still in this space and should be taking proactive steps to develop their menopause strategy. Retention of talented individuals and employee wellbeing sit alongside a need to guard against tribunal claims and maintain business reputation.