Menopause Will Not Become a Protected Characteristic

Menopause Will Not Become a Protected Characteristic

Our Head of Operations, Kendal Hulme has explored this recent decision around the menopause in a legal update for July 2022.

A Call to the Government for Change

12 months ago, members of the Roundtable on older workers were asked by the Minister for Employment to consider the impact menopause has on workers’ lives, especially later on in their careers. Members of the Roundtable included, amongst others, the Federation of Small Businesses, the Business Champion for Older Workers, the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), the British Chamber of Commerce, and the Recruitment and Employment Confederation.

The group published a report with 10 recommendations in November 2021 which included a call, in point 2, directed to the Government, that the “Equality Act section 14 enacted to enable intersectional, multiple, discrimination claims to be recognised”. The premise behind recognising intersectional claims being that the claimant would be able to make a claim of combined discrimination (discriminated against because of a combination of two protected characteristics).

The Government Response

The government responded with a published policy paper on July 18th 2022. The paper outlined specifics of each of the 10 recommendations put forward by the Roundtable report including confirmation of their stance that the Equality Act 2010 does not need further changes. The report explains that “sex, age and disability are all characteristics which provide protection against unfair treatment of employees going through the menopause” and as such, the Government does not intend to make any further changes to the Equality Act.

Baroness Stedman-Scott also elaborated further on the government’s views, in a response to a menopause enquiry sent by Caroline Noakes MP, chair of the Women and Equalities Committee. Stedman-Scott stated that there was no intention to implement the dual discrimination provisions as it could create “unwelcome regulatory complexity and place new costly burdens on business and the public sector.”

Employers Must Continuously Review Their Practices

Whilst menopause may not be categorised as a separate protected characteristic, it is clear that the impact this has on employees is being considered in great depth now more than ever. Tribunal cases have risen significantly in menopause-related claims and employers must continuously review their practices to ensure they are supporting their workforce to avoid potential discrimination claims brought against them.

Potential Future Change for Employers

The Roundtable specifically addressed recommendations in employment, which were responded to with promises of constructive action within the Government’s published response of July 18th 2022. The points below could be the foundations of many future changes employers need to implement and practice if not already doing so:

  • Launch a collaborative and government-backed employer-led campaign, working in conjunction with the Menopause Ambassador, covering:

    a. The importance of open conversations about the menopause in the workplace to help break down the taboo and normalise the issue.

    b. The importance of training line managers, acknowledging all people are affected by the menopause in different ways; and where to signpost for further help (OH, GP, etc.).

    c. The importance of awareness-raising and action to combat bias and harassment.

    d. The need for workplace adjustments in addition to flexible working.

    e. The value of support groups and specialist support.

    f. Sick leave policy/procedure.

    g. Performance management.

    h. Flexible working rights; and

    i. Returner programmes to include and highlight post-menopausal opportunities as well as post-maternity. This would be underpinned by a toolkit and case studies for employers focusing on the broader education and normalising of the conversation.
  • Larger employers to put in place workplace awareness, training and support via Employee Assistance Programmes (EAP). A ‘champion’ point of contact to be in place, this is particularly important for SME’s where EAP is not available.

HPC Can Help You

At HPC we are committed to ensuring you and your business remain protected. That is why our team of highly experienced and qualified consultants are here to offer expert advice, guidance and support to help you navigate the difficult world of HR and protected characteristics.

If you need assistance implementing menopause policies, increasing awareness in your workplace or would just like to discuss this further, get in contact with our expert team of consultants today.

T: 0330 107 1037


Twitter: @HPC_HRServices

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