The Law and Menopause
The following legislation is key in relation to menopause:
The Equality Act 2010 - https://www.gov.uk/guidance/equality-act-2010-guidance
This legislation legally protects people from discrimination in the workplace and in wider society.
The Health and safety at Work Act 1974 - https://www.hse.gov.uk/legislation/hswa.htm
This legislation states, “An employer must, where reasonably practical, ensure everyone’s health, safety and welfare at work”.
The Equality Act 2010 – Protected Characteristics in relation to Menopause/Menopause Symptoms
While menopause is not a specific protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010, in accordance with the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS), “if an employee is disadvantaged and treated less favourably in any way because of their menopause symptoms this could be viewed as discrimination if related to a protected characteristic, for example, age, disability, gender reassignment or sex”. Further explanation from ACAS is provided below:
Employees and workers are protected from being put at a disadvantage or treated less favourably because of their age. This could include less favourable treatment because they're going through the menopause, because it is usually related to the age of the person.
It's important for employers to remember that age discrimination and harassment can also affect younger people who go through medical or early menopause. For example, it could be age discrimination if a colleague makes a rude joke about young people going through the menopause.
In some cases, the menopause could be considered a disability under discrimination law.
If someone is disabled, their employer must make reasonable adjustments to reduce or remove any disadvantages they might experience because of it. For example, this might include agreeing to record absence because of the menopause separately from other sickness absence.
It's a good idea for employers to focus on supporting the person, rather than trying to work out if someone's condition is a disability.
If someone affected by the menopause is put at a disadvantage and treated less favourably because of something related to their disability, this could be 'discrimination arising from disability'.
Gender reassignment discrimination
Gender reassignment is a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010. A person has the protected characteristic of gender reassignment if they are planning to go through, are going through or have gone through a process (or part of a process) to reassign their sex. This could be by changing physical or other attributes related to someone's sex.
In the Equality Act 2010, the term 'transsexual' is used to describe people with the protected characteristic of gender reassignment. Many people prefer to use the word 'trans' or 'transgender' rather than 'transsexual'.
If an employer puts an employee or worker at a disadvantage or treats them less favourably because they have, or someone thinks they have, the protected characteristic of gender reassignment, this could be discrimination.
Unfair treatment to an employee or worker because of their sex could lead to a discrimination claim.
Employers should also be aware that unwanted behaviour about someone's menopause symptoms could count as harassment or sexual harassment depending on the nature of the behaviour.