Although menopause affects 51 percent of the population, there remains a considerable lack of awareness or understanding of menopause in the workplace.1 It is fundamental for employers to be aware of the ways they can support their employees who are going through this transition.

Here I will discuss the crucial considerations for employers and the potential consequences for not providing support for employees experiencing symptoms of the menopause in the workplace.

The background

According to NHS Inform, menopausal women are the fastest-growing demographic in the workforce2. Menopause can present a significant number of symptoms, sometimes debilitating, that can substantially impact a person’s ability to carry out their role and day-to-day activities. The British Menopause Society found that in 2023, 45 percent of women felt that menopausal symptoms had a negative impact on their work.

The Equality Act 2010 (the Act) legally protects individuals from discrimination in the workplace and in wider society3. Within a workplace setting, diversity is focused on protecting characteristics under the Act, including sex, age, disability, pregnancy, religion or beliefs and sexual orientation. Women are therefore protected under the Act. Whilst the Act doesn’t specifically protect the menopause as a protected characteristic, sex, age and disability are all characteristics which provide protection against unfair treatment in the workplace for women going through the menopause. There is no one-size-fits-all approach, for some, menopausal symptoms can be so severe and long term that they satisfy the definition of a disability in the Act.

Employee rights

The lack of support available to appropriately support women suffering from menopausal symptoms in the workplace is becoming increasingly evident.

Employers must acknowledge that they have a duty to put in place reasonable adjustments in the workplace where an employee’s symptoms meet the definition of a disability under the Act. This can include flexible working, adjusted performance targets, a change in role, uniform modifications, providing a desk fan or providing auxiliary aids. Failing to do this will expose the business to a risk of a potential disability discrimination claim.

Irrespective of this, employers should offer support to all employees experiencing symptoms of the menopause to ensure that they do not lose valuable employees. Employers are encouraged to introduce processes such as;

  • Creating and promoting a culture where employees can talk about their symptoms and challenges related to menopause.
  • Identify and reduce any barriers that could potentially prevent employees from performing or developing in their role whilst going through menopause.
  • Identify any other challenges that employees may face and ensure that reasonable adjustments are put in place.
  • Consider introducing a menopause policy to spread awareness of the support that the business provides to employees going through the menopause.
  • Provide training to managers to ensure they are equipped to support employees in the workplace who are experiencing menopausal symptoms.

This will help employers to foster an environment with open communication, which will make their employees feel at ease and supported in discussing the menopause and its effects. The importance of this has been demonstrated by the British Menopause Society, which indicated that 47 percent of employees were hesitant to disclose the cause of their absence from work4.

Menopause and the workplace

Last year, the Women and Equalities Committee (Committee) of the House of Commons published the ‘Menopause and the Workplace’ report. This made twelve recommendations to the UK Government, aimed at encouraging an improvement in the support available and legal rights in the workplace afforded to women experiencing menopause. The Report published in July 2023 made several recommendations, which included;

  • The appointment of a Menopause Ambassador to work with businesses, unions and other groups to give the necessary guidance to employers and businesses;
  • The production of model menopause policies to assist employers and work as a guideline of best practice;
  • The Government to work with a large public sector employer to develop and pilot a menopause policy;
  • Legislate for flexible working to become a day-one right to all employees;
  • Implement section 14 of the Act, which would have the effect of introducing sex and age as a single dual protected characteristic; and
  • Launch a consultation on amending the Act to provide for menopause as an individual protected characteristic.

The Government has since published its response which has taken on board some, but not all, of the Report’s recommendations. For example, the Government has introduced a right to request flexible working from the first day of employment, which came into effect on 6 April 2024. The response also confirms that it will introduce the appointment of a ‘Menopause Employment Champion’ to work with employers and the Government to highlight and champion best practice and how they can improve the support available in the workplace.

However, the Government has also rejected several of the Report’s recommendations, including the implementation of a model menopause policy in the public sector and the proposal to class it as a protected characteristic under the Act.

Looking ahead

There is a growing number of workplace disputes and Employment Tribunal claims citing menopause.

Anna, alongside the Employment Law team at Blacks Solicitors, represented Maxine Lynskey in a discrimination case against Direct Line, alleging menopause-related disability discrimination. Maxine received nearly £65,000 in compensation when her manager denied a pay rise. Owing to the onset of the menopause, Maxine experienced ‘brain fog’, concentration problems and memory issues, resulting in her manager deeming her performance as ‘need for improvement’.

This case and many others alike demonstrate the importance of employers meeting their obligations to avoid significant financial and reputational consequences for those experiencing menopause symptoms.




Anna Schiavetta
Anna Schiavetta
Solicitor in the Employment Law team at Blacks Solicitors | + posts

Blacks Solicitors is a 28-partner firm providing a wide range of legal services to commercial and private clients in Yorkshire and across the UK. With over 200 employees, the Firm continues to go from strength to strength. Blacks provides advice on: Corporate & Commercial Law; Real Estate; Leasehold Enfranchisement; Planning & Highways law; Banking & Finance; Employment & Human Resources; Commercial and Civil Dispute Resolution/Litigation; Residential and Buy To Let Conveyancing; Private Wealth & Succession; and Family law.