An Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) has ruled that severe menopausal symptoms can amount to a disability under the Equality Act. 

Ms. M Rooney, a childcare social worker, first brought claims against her former employer (Leicester City Council) in 2019, stating she had faced sex discrimination and disability discrimination as a result of her menopausal symptoms.

The claimant explained how she had suffered “with physical, mental & psychological effects of the menopause for the last two years”.

Ms. Rooney added that she suffered with a range of symptoms including insomnia (causing fatigue & tiredness), light headedness, confusion, stress, depression, anxiety, palpitations, memory loss, migraines and hot flushes.

When attempting to contact Occupational Health, the claimant stated that she was not provided with a female doctor as requested and felt uncomfortable discussing her symptoms in the presence of male colleagues and managers.

On one such occasion, Ms. Rooney recounted that a male manager made an insensitive comment, comparing her hot flushes arising from the menopause to himself “also getting hot in the office”.

She argued that she was unfavourably treated by managers who “did not take [her] situation into account before making decisions regarding certain aspects of [her employment]”, including issuing a written warning for being off sick.

As such, Ms. Rooney felt there was no other alternative but to leave her position as it was a stressful and demanding position with a lack of managerial support.

However, the Employment Tribunal ruled that the Claimant’s “alleged medical conditions of anxiety and depression and menopausal symptoms do not amount to a disability for the purposes of the Equality Act 2010” and dismissed the claims.

The claimant then appealed the decision made by the Employment Tribunal.

As such, in October 2021, the Employment Appeal Tribunal ruled that the initial ET was incorrect by ruling that the claimant was not a disabled person at the time.

Kate Palmer, Associate Director of HR Advisory and consultancy, stated:

Employers should keep in mind that any health condition, including the menopause, may be considered a disability under the Equality Act 2010 if its symptoms cause a substantial and long-term adverse effect on the employee’s ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.

Adequate support measures, including reasonable adjustments and a sensitive, understanding approach to any health-related conversations are fundamental in ensuring the continual employment and success of employees going through the menopause.

Businesses that do so will reap the rewards of long-term retention, increased motivation and productivity, and return of investment from internal training and development exercises.

This case is expected to be remitted back to the employment tribunal.