The Government has rejected five recommendations, including a consultation on amending the 2010 Equality Act to make menopause a protected characteristic and producing model menopause policies and trialling menopause leave.
Helen Molloy, an employment specialist and partner at law firm Shakespeare Martineau, said:
Ironically this comes just months before International Women’s Day but the Government’s position is a heavy blow to progress for women in the workplace. With women being forced out of work due to unmanageable symptoms or rigid sickness policies, they are being left with little protection, having to rely on arguments around sex, age or even disability discrimination, where such issues can be made out.
While the Government claims to have an ambitious plan, no details have emerged, leaving the problem open to interpretation, and open to worsening. Workplaces who do not already have menopause policies in place are unlikely to implement them now, leaving many women without the support they need.
Helen Molloy, employment specialist
The Chair of Menopause Mandate, Mariella Frostrup, spoke on BBC Breakfast News stating:
This response is three and a half months late and five key points have been rejected. As MP Caroline Nokes says, it’s a missed opportunity to support the millions of menopausal women in the workplace, many of whom will leave because of their symptoms.
It seems particularly ironic given that a couple of weeks ago the Treasury was talking about policies to get people back to work. Wouldn’t it be nice to keep them there in the first place?
Mariella Frostrup, chair of Menopause Mandate
Model menopause policies – recommendation rejected
The Report recommends that the Government produces model menopause policies to assist employers. This would give advice on flexible working, sick leave for menopause symptoms and provisions for education, training and building a supportive culture. We have now learnt that the Government hasn’t accepted the recommendation, saying that they don’t believe it is currently necessary.
Menopause Mandate expert, Cathy Hastie, HR Director and menopause advocate says:
A menopause policy is a vital part of providing guidance on how to manage menopause in the workplace, and the support a menopausal worker can expect. Many employers need guidance on how to frame a policy and what should be included, especially around reasonable adjustments.
The Government providing model policies not only provides much needed guidance on practice, but role models the importance of having a policy in place as a bare minimum.
Cathy Hastie, Menopause Mandate expert
Make menopause a protected characteristic – recommendation rejected
The Government has rejected launching a consultation on how to amend the Equality Act 2010 to make menopause a protected characteristic. (It is currently covered under the three protected characteristics of age, sex and disability). MM argues that these don’t cover enough scenarios and protect enough women.
The Government agrees that: ‘Women who suffer substantial and longer-term menopausal effects should be adequately protected’. But in refusing to allow consultation into this proposed change they aren’t honouring this.
Mariella Frostrup continues:
This is representative of the Government’s patronising and misplaced approach to menopausal women. It’s a liminal phase affecting 50 per cent of the population and surely deserves to be a protected characteristic all of its own?
MM expert Emma Hammond, employment partner at gunnercooke LLP says:
The law presently requires women to frame their circumstances into age, sex or disability discrimination claims, which is far from satisfactory. It is extremely disappointing that the government is refusing to even entertain a consultation period, as the Committee suggests, into the question of introducing menopause as a protected characteristic.
Such a period would allow all of their concerns to be properly addressed, including by the Employment Lawyers Association, so that a properly informed decision can then be taken. Instead, we are met with a blanket refusal.
Emma Hammond, Menopause Madate expert
Menopause leave – recommendation rejected
The Committee recommends that the Government should work with a large public sector employer with a strong public profile to develop and pilot a specific ‘menopause leave’ policy and provide an evaluation of the scheme and proposals for further rollout, within 12 months of commencing the scheme. This has also been rejected.
Cathy Hastie comments;
For some women, menopause is so debilitating that it necessitates some time away from work. This leave needs to be treated differently from other sickness absence and protected from what can be punitive sickness absence management procedures. To deny them this protection is incredibly disappointing.
It appears that the long-promised Pre-Payment Certificate for HRT, meaning that women will only have to pay a one-off, annual charge, will be implemented from April 2023.
However, some of the wording around this is rather ambiguous; ‘The intention is…’, ‘Subject to consultation with all relevant representative bodies…’. We are currently awaiting clarification on this.
Menopause Mandate expert Thorrun Govind, Chair of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society:
We are disappointed that it is taking so long for this PPC to be introduced, and hope that it will finally happen in April.
Given health inequalities have further widened with the pandemic and the cost of living is biting, we continue to campaign for free prescriptions for all in England.
Thorrun Govind, Menopause Mandate expert