Menopause – The final frontier for discriminating lawyers

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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