A parliamentary group has urged employers to drive change and improve workplace menopause policies. They have also called on the government to update and promote guidance for employers on best practice which. They say, should include the economic justification and productivity benefits of doing so.
This latest report is from the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Menopause and follows their detailed inquiry into the current policy and wider landscape around menopause in the UK. It follows the earlier, separate, inquiry conducted by the Women and Equalities Committee which looked at the much narrower issue of menopause discrimination in the workplace.
This latest report by the all-party group highlights the fact that despite 51% of the population will experience the menopause there is an entrenched taboo around menopause which is, at times underpinned by sexism and ageism. They say the support for the 13 million women currently going through menopause, or peri-menopause, is completely inadequate.
People Management covers this and highlights an alarming finding which appears in the Executive Summary of the report. The Inquiry finds that:
‘While many companies shared best practices examples of the support given to their employees, the fact remains that a majority of employers do not consider menopause a proper health condition and do not have policies in place to support staff going through it. There is a role for both Government and employers to play to work together to drive forward this change.’
The inquiry goes on to suggest that menopause be treated as a “core employee health issue” and that the business case for investing in employee support should be promoted.
As you’d expect, many of our clients do have a menopause policy along with a number of effective initiatives designed to support women. Kate Dodd has been central to a lot of that work and she joined me by video-link from Manchester this latest report. I asked her what she made of the finding that a majority of employers don’t consider menopause to be a proper health condition:
Kate Dodd: “Very interesting and I think it's probably indicative of some of the difficulty that we're still having around the acceptance and understanding of menopause and the condition that it has from a health perspective in the workplace. So, it's been long linked to just being part of ageing and, actually, we’ve seen commentary around things like private health insurance, do they cover something like menopause? Or is it just considered to be a natural part of the ageing process for women? I think the fact that there are so many employees who do not recognise it as being a health condition is in itself probably what is causing so much stigma, what holds people back from talking about the effects that it might be having upon them.”
Joe Glavina: “Is menopause mentioned in the Equality Act? Is it one of the protected characteristics?”
Kate Dodd: “No, it's not, menopause is not a protected characteristic. It was talked about widely, and we were really hopeful that it was going to be, but that doesn't look like it's going to happen. So a woman has to rely on other types of protective characteristics. So, probably most likely would be disability discrimination. Obviously, to have the coverage of disability discrimination somebody has to have a long-term health condition that has a substantial adverse effect on just their normal day to day life, basically, but anyone who is experiencing significant menopause issues will tell you that that very much is the case for them. So, there will usually be covered as a disability and potentially, of course, age discrimination and, of course, potentially sex discrimination. So, there are protections out there, but it is, as you say, not recognised as a protected characteristic in its own right.”
Joe Glavina: “You’ve talked to this programme many times on this subject, Kate, and you’ve said that, of course, it’s a good idea to have a menopause policy, but I understand you’re telling clients they need to have a strategy to back it up. Can you explain what you mean by that?”
Kate Dodd: “Yes, so this is a really good point because there's some fantastic initiatives, and there always are each year around particular awareness days, etcetera. Lots of businesses will have events, etcetera, with initiatives but if you don't have a strategy to back up those initiatives then, essentially, it's just a feel-good moment in time and there is no lasting change that will be created. So what you need in your strategy is really for it to be very multifaceted. So you need to have reflections for both your individual employees who might be experiencing the menopause, but also for your managers in order to equip them, to educate them, and then to make sure that your strategy also provides the interventions for talented women, for example, who might be at risk of falling out of the business because of what they're going through. So, it’s really a three-pronged approach. So, employees at large, who might be experiencing menopause. Managers who are dealing with people who are going through menopause and individuals who you feel are particularly at risk within your own business.”
That report by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Menopause was published on 12 October, just before World Menopause Day on the 18th. We have put a link to it in the transcript of this programme.