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