Data shows that a growing number of women are taking their employers to court, citing unfair dismissal or direct sex discrimination due to the menopause.
New data shows a sharp increase in the number of cases which are being brought to employment tribunals due to the menopause.
In 2018, there were only five employment tribunal cases which referenced the claimant’s menopause. By 2019, this increased to six and the following year, the numbers were almost triple – standing at 16 cases.
However, in the first half of 2021 alone, there have already been ten cases which have menopause at the centre.
Dee Murray, the founder and chief executive of Menopause Experts, which carried out the research, stated:
I can see that this will carry on building until such time as there are some really big, group lawsuits, which I’m sure there will be.
The women in a lot of the big companies are already setting up their own private, internal menopause support groups. If they decide their issues are not supported by HR, you could potentially have a real problem.
The issue of menopause has become an increasingly prevalent one in recent discourse, with HR teams debating whether a specific policy on menopause should be introduced.
Just last month, a House of Commons Committee launched an inquiry which scrutinised existing legislation and workplace practices linked to the menopause.
As part of this inquiry, it sought to understand the nature of discrimination surrounding the menopause and what practical steps could be taken to minimise this within the workplace.
Dee Murray argued that it is in employers’ best interests to retain women going through the menopause – which impacts around 4.5 million women in the UK.
This is because many are at the peak of their careers, meaning this group leaving the workforce could have significant implications on workplace productivity, the gender pay-gap and the gender pension gap.
As well as employers being expected to increase workplace education around the topic, Adam Pavey, Director of Employment and HR at Pannone Corporate Law, argued that the courts need to take a more consistent approach to the topic also:
The lack of consistency from tribunals as to whether menopause is an issue of disability or sex discrimination is cause for concern. Employers and employees need clarity so this can be tackled proactively, and the law needs to catch up.
We urgently need decisions from the appeal courts as this lack of clarity will continue until we see some real guidance in this area.
However, Jenny Arrowsmith, an employment partner at Irwin Mitchell, argued that many businesses are making positive changes:
We’ve seen real enthusiasm from some of our clients to change workplace attitudes towards menopause.
We’ve recently held a series of seminars on this issue and have seen, first hand, that there’s a huge appetite amongst HR practitioners to support menopausal women in their organisations and retain their skills and experience.
There is good reason for this – menopausal symptoms can lead to absence, decline in performance and cause women to leave roles in which they once thrived.