Direct Line were ordered to pay nearly £65,000 to an employee at tribunal after claims of failing to make reasonable adjustments when she started to develop symptoms relating to menopause.
Supporting employees going through menopause is crucial for creating a healthy and inclusive workplace environment. There are numerous reasons employers shouldn’t ignore menopause in the workplace. Reasons include:
The recent case of Lynskey v Direct Line provides a reminder to employers that they must be aware of the complex issues surrounding menopause and the way in which symptoms can affect performance.
Ms Lynskey was employed by Direct Line from April 2016 to May 2022 and had a good performance rating in her role as a motor sales consultant. In 2019 Ms Lynskey started to develop menopausal symptoms of which her employer was aware. This included low mood, anxiety, mood swings, memory loss (brain fog) and poor concentration. Despite this, she remained subject to the employer’s normal performance standards, which she struggled to reach because of the above-mentioned. Due to these ongoing difficulties, she was transferred to another role which had fewer targets attached to it. However, this meant that she lost out financially.
The employee continued to struggle in this role and was placed under formal performance management proceedings. A request for refresher training was refused on the basis that there was no budget for such training. The employee experienced panic attacks and was advised unfit for work. The employer appeared to be supportive and regularly contacted the employee. However, the employer stopped sick pay in an attempt to encourage the employee to return to work despite the employee only having used half of the company’s sick pay entitlement.
As a result of the situation, the claimant felt she had no option but to resign. She then brought various claims against her employer. The claims of particular interest, in this case, came from the Equality Act 2010. Specifically an employer’s duty to make reasonable adjustments and the right not to be treated unfavourably because of something arising as a consequence of the individual’s disability. Although menopause is not a specified disability under the Equality Act 2010, it has been established in several tribunal cases that menopause symptoms can amount to a disability under the Act.
The duty to make reasonable adjustments is a requirement on the employer, “where a provision, criterion or practice (PCP) puts a disabled person at a substantial disadvantage in relation to a relevant matter in comparison with persons who are not disabled, to take such steps as it is reasonable to have to take to avoid the disadvantage”. This duty arises where an employer is aware, or ought to reasonably have been aware, of the individual’s disability.
The claimant successfully argued that the requirement to meet the performance standards of her role was the relevant PCP and that this put her at a substantial disadvantage because, in comparison to an employee who was not experiencing symptoms of menopause, she was at greater risk of disciplinary measures.
The Employment Tribunal found that there was no consideration for the impact that the menopause was having on her performance. In addition, no adjustments were made to support her in the workplace. This was despite there being numerous amendments that had been suggested that could have helped the claimant be successful in her role, including transferring her to an alternative role instead of supporting her to improve in her existing one. The tribunal heavily criticised the “wholesale lack of compassion and understanding” shown by the employer.
The claimant was successful in her claims for failure to make reasonable adjustments, and section 15 discrimination arising from a disability and was awarded £64,645.07.
Every individual’s experience of menopause will be different; employers need to be aware of the effects that symptoms can have. It is a highly sensitive issue where advice at the appropriate stage can allow employers to communicate with employees effectively.
It is clear from this case that employers should give careful consideration to employees who give health issues as a reason for poor or inappropriate performance or conduct, rather than being dismissive of it.
Employers should pro-actively consider ways to support employees who are going through menopause. Implement a Menopause Policy to assist with creating an open and menopause-friendly workplace where managers and those experiencing menopause feel comfortable discussing any issues associated with this. It also ensures the necessary help is known about and offered to those affected.
By implementing these strategies, employers can create a workplace environment where employees going through menopause feel understood, supported and able to manage their work responsibilities effectively.
Once the adjustments are agreed, employers should review them on an ongoing basis to ensure they are having the required effect.
Employers should remember they are legally obliged by the Equality Act 2010 to make reasonable adjustments to an employee’s role or working conditions if they have a disability that places them at a disadvantage when performing their role and need to ensure compliance with their obligations in this regard.
Our team of expert HR Consultants can provide support with implementing a menopause policy or reasonable adjustments within the workplace and offer guidance how you can support your employees.
To find out more information or if you require any advice about supporting menopause in the workplace, get in contact with our team of experts.
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