Menopause – The final frontier for discriminating lawyers

December 9, 2016

No area of law has developed quite so quickly or quite so comprehensively as the law of

 

Discrimination. Since the Race Relations Act in 1965 and the Equal Pay Act in 1970, we

 

have protected society from discrimination by race, gender, age, disability, religious belief,

 

sexual orientation and gender reassignment and have demanded that employers make

 

reasonable adjustments to prevent discrimination in the work place.

 

 

However, one apparent inequality remains unprotected and this is partly due to the fact that it

 

is almost a taboo subject within our society and partly due to the fact that the victims of

 

discrimination are loathe to admit that they are experiencing the menopause and are going

 

through a life changing experience that may last from five to ten years of their working life.

 

For employment lawyers, it has become almost a holy grail to find a successful unfair

 

dismissal which is solely the result of an employee being discriminated against because of the

 

effects of the menopause. Yet this is a physical and emotional time for employees and can

 

have jarring affects in the workplace if not properly dealt with. Part of the reason why no

 

successful claim has been made is that women, on reaching the age of menopause are

 

experienced enough to have a higher earning power than a younger colleague. When a

 

redundancy scenario arises, there may well be an economic reason for the older worker being

 

made redundant albeit that the menopause may have been an underlying and unspoken reason

 

for the choice.

 

 

The good employer would be advised to make the necessary reasonable adjustments to assist

 

woman during menopause and should be aware of the effects of hormone replacement drugs,

 

potential depression, dizziness and the necessity of temperature control in the employees

 

work environment. Communication, empathy and sensitivity from the compassionate

 

employer will help valued members of staff get through this difficult period.

 

But even the most sensitive of employers cannot make assumptions and will not be aware of

 

the problems which an employee is facing unless they are told. Employees must use those

 

performance appraisals to explain their situation and the problems that concern them and

 

which they may be experiencing so that the employer can provide the help and support

 

required.

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