Menopause has been a long-ignored issue in society. This was recently evident in the deputy governor of the Bank of England’s statement, when he described the stagnating economy as ‘menopausal’. This attitude towards this debilitating transitional phase of a woman’s life is often overlooked and brushed aside, including within the workplace.
Many women in the workplace will fall within the age that menopause typically begins at, 51, and will experience a range of symptoms, all in varying intensities.
Some women see their career affected and may experience troubles in the workplace during their transitional period. Some women have even talked of losing their jobs due to the effects of the Menopause.
In the UK, there have been 2 key cases on menopause transition.
In Merchant vs BT plc, Ms Merchant was dismissed following a final warning for poor performance. She had previously given her manager a letter from her doctor explaining that she was “going through the menopause which can affect her level of concentration at times”.
The manager chose not to carry out any further investigations of her symptoms, in breach of BT’s performance management policy.
The tribunal upheld her claims of direct sex discrimination and unfair dismissal and held that the manager would never have adopted “this bizarre and irrational approach with other non-female-related conditions”.
In Davies v Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service, Ms Davies was found to have been unfairly dismissed and subjected to disability discrimination. She was subsequently reinstated to her role, with back pay, as well as being awarded compensation for injury to feelings.
The judge found that Ms Davies had been dismissed “because of something arising in consequence of her disability” as per section 15 of the Equality Act 2010. She suffered from transition symptoms which included heavy bleeding (requiring her at times to work near a bathroom as she needed to change her sanitary towel every 30 minutes) as well as stress, memory loss and other symptoms.
It was held that her employer had failed to protect her when, during the course of its investigation and when making the decision to dismiss, it did not consider that her “conduct was affected by her disability”. Her memory loss and confusion were in fact caused by her disability (which was in turn the result of her transition).
Apart from unfair dismissal, disability related discrimination and direct sex discrimination, other possible claims linked to menopause which could be made include:
It is clear that changes to attitudes in the workplace must be made, and the issue cannot continue to be ignored.
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