Over the past couple of years, menopause has become somewhat of a trending topic in UK employment law.
In our previous blog, we covered the UK Government’s rejection of the Women and Equalities Committee’s recommendation to include menopause as a standalone protected characteristic in the Equality Act 2010. Part of its justification for this and other recommendations was its assertion that the UK economy was ‘haemorrhaging talent’ due to lack of appropriate support for people going through the menopause.
In an attempt to address the statistic that global menopause productivity losses are estimated to be in the region of $150 billion a year, the British Standards Institution (BSI) has published guidance ‘designed to help organisations support employees experiencing menopause or menstruation and better enable them to retain experienced and talented people of all ages’.
The Menstruation, Menstrual Health and Menopause in the Workplace Standard (BS20416) was developed with input from industry experts, businesses and the public and is designed to permeate all workplaces and industries; from traditional offices to construction sites.
It aims to assist organisations in identifying and addressing misconceptions around menstruation and menopause and provides examples of practical adjustments and good practice in the workplace.
For example, it encourages considering your workplace culture and whether there is a general awareness of menstruation and menopause; whether managers are suitably trained to understand menstruation and menopause and their potential impact on the workforce; whether you offer suitable facilities e.g. discrete changing rooms, access to menstrual products; whether your policies adequately consider menopause and menstruation; and whether your workplace practices allow flexibility for individual experiences e.g. flexible working patterns, flexible dress codes.
The BSI emphasises that the guidance is of benefit to all employees whether they menstruate or not. Although menstruation and menopause primarily affect women, a more open and inclusive work culture can benefit men and others who do not menstruate, for example, to support family members and colleagues who do or to be more open about and seek support for their own wellbeing.
For employers, being a leader in this area will both help in retaining existing talent and in attracting new talent. As noted, menopause and menstruation have become a recurring feature in the media and in employment law in the UK. Candidates (and existing staff) are looking for an inclusive and supportive workplace where they are listened to and their concerns are addressed. Ensuring you are taking steps to do so will in turn ensure the longevity of a happy workforce.
Not only this – despite not being included as a standalone protected characteristic at present, employers who are not making adjustments for menopause and menstruation could potentially face discrimination claims on the basis of disability and/or age and/or sex. Depending on the individual circumstances, they could also face claims of unfair dismissal. These claims can be costly for an employer. A finding of unfair dismissal can attract a maximum basic award of £19,290 as well as a compensatory award capped at the lower of £105,707 or 12 months’ gross pay. In cases of discrimination, the compensatory award is uncapped and can include an award for injury to feelings. The average award for injury to feelings alone sits around £15,000.
If you need advice in respect of updating your policies, procedures or other workplace adjustments, our specialist employment team would be pleased to assist.
The latest developments in Occupational Health
It’s an emergency! A guide to ‘time off for dependants’
Menopause Awareness Day 2023 and beyond – How can employers support menopausal employees?
UK Supreme Court issues judgment in holiday pay case
Can a dismissal be fair when there has been no hearing in front of the decision maker?
Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Act 2023
Guidance given to employers when considering expression of protected beliefs
Unplugged: Could a ‘right to disconnect’ from work make its way to the UK?
Call us for free on 0330 912 0294 or complete our online form below for legal advice or to arrange a call back.