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Tips On Implementing Menopause Support Policies At Work

16 May 2023. Published by Ellie Gelder, Senior Editor Employment & Equality and Kelly Thomson, Partner

The conversation around menopause and its associated challenges is undoubtedly becoming more open and frequent, with people in the public eye speaking out about their experiences and urging women and others experiencing menopause to seek support and treatment.

Slowly but surely, we are breaking down the taboo of a natural process experienced by half the adult population that in the past was, at best, quietly tolerated and hidden away. There is, however, more to do and more that employers can do to shift the dial.

The True Cost of Menopause

Every person's experience of menopause is unique to them but commonly reported symptoms include: hot flushes, brain fog, memory problems, low self-esteem, fatigue, joint pain, depression, anxiety, heart palpitations and sleep problems.

While a quarter experience no noticeable symptoms, 75% are affected by their symptoms and 25% report severe symptoms.1 These symptoms can be debilitating and may negatively affect relationships, physical and mental health, work and career prospects.

The statistics on the impact that menopausal symptoms can have on someone's mental well-being are especially brutal: In 2021, the Office of National Statistics found that the age-specific suicide rate among women is highest in those aged between 45 and 49, an age when perimenopause typically occurs.2

Meanwhile, the career impact is stark. According to research by the Fawcett Society,3 1 in 10 women have left a job due to their menopausal symptoms, while 14% had reduced their hours and 8% had chosen not to apply for promotion.

Why Is Menopause a Business Issue?

As the economy continues to weather the financial crisis, the government announced in its March budget ambitious plans to address worker shortages and skills gaps. This includes encouraging the over-50s to return to the workplace, as well as imposing an increase to the state pension age to 67 between 2026 and 2028, and 68 between 2044 and 2046.

There is therefore a growing drive to boost the numbers of older people in the workforce.

Combine this with the oft-cited war for talent, and it is clear that employers will need to find ways to attract and retain this precious resource and a key ingredient of this is supporting employees who are affected by menopause — a group that currently represents the fastest growing worker demographic in the United Kingdom.

Ultimately, everyone will either experience menopause themselves or will have a colleague, friend or relative who is going, or will go, through it. So, it really is an issue for everyone to learn about and engage with, particularly anyone with a management or leadership role.

Legal and Political Developments

The government has accepted that better access to treatment is necessary and announced that from April 1, hormone replacement treatment, or HRT, will be cheaper and therefore more accessible to those who are eligible.

Some commentators have said this latest move by the government is not enough, with The Guardian4 recently reporting that demand was so high that the U.K. National Health Service website used to access the HRT payment certificate crashed.

In another blow to progress, in January, the government rejected calls to make menopause a protected characteristic in its own right under the Equality Act 2010.

Campaigners argue that the current law is not fit for purpose because many women and others who are treated less favourably because of their menopausal symptoms are excluded from definitive employment law protection.

This is because the law protects only those people where their discrimination claim relates to age, sex or disability.

Many potential claimants do not meet these criteria. For example, women who encounter perimenopausal symptoms much younger than the average age may not succeed with an age discrimination claim.

Similarly, where a person's symptoms are intermittent and therefore do not constitute a disability, they will not succeed with a disability discrimination claim.

Direct sex discrimination claims are also problematic as a female claimant would have to show that a male comparator with a similar condition would not have been treated in the same way.

While the government has made some concessions by appointing Helen Tomlinson, head of talent in the U.K. and Ireland at Adecco Group, as an independent menopause champion5 "to drive forward work with employers on menopause workplace issues and to spearhead the proposed collaborative employer led campaign," it has stopped short of rolling out policies on menopause leave.

Despite the government watering down its potential package of support, a growing number of employers have themselves taken ownership of the issue with over 2,000 people signing up to menopause workplace pledge with well-being of women6 to take positive action to ensure that everyone who is going through menopause is supported.

Meanwhile, Boots UK Ltd. and the Timpson Group have shown their commitment by agreeing to pay for their employees' HRT prescriptions.7

As a result, many employers are looking at how to best support affected employees as part of their wider diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging strategies.

Conversely, failing to grasp this opportunity to improve gender equality risks an organization's ability to attract, recruit and retain a valuable group of employees — who are often at the peak of their experience and knowledge at the time they begin to face menopause-related barriers in the workplace.

Supporting and Retaining Affected Employees

According to 2021 research by the digital health and wellness platform Peppy Health Ltd.,8 although 54% of employers in the U.K. did not yet have in place any specific menopause support, 21% were planning to introduce dedicated support measures in the following 12 months.

So, although there are no imminent changes to the law on menopause discrimination, there is a definite trend toward rolling out menopause support throughout U.K. businesses.

Employers should review all their workplace policies and procedures to assess what changes may be required to ensure that menopause support is fully embedded in the organization's work practices. Some employers have chosen to implement a dedicated menopause policy to outline the various types of support on offer and how employees can access it.

However, while such policies are fundamental, they also need to be reflected in the day-to-day culture of the organization if the aim is to create sustainable positive change.

Anecdotally, some have reported that the most difficult challenge can be discussing their menopausal symptoms with their manager, especially if their manager is male.

Therefore, opening up channels for communication with others who understand what they are going through is vital to equip women and others experiencing menopause with the confidence to approach their line manager.

Menopause cafés or support groups can provide essential peer-to-peer support, while providing access to a qualified menopause adviser can be a positive first step for employees to understand their symptoms and treatment options.

Many employers have introduced digital menopause support platforms, such as Peppy, to facilitate access to help in a confidential and convenient way.9

A growing number of employers have also introduced menopause leave, whereby their absence procedures are adjusted so that a person's absences for menopausal symptoms will not trigger the employer's formal absence procedure. Consequently, employees are not penalized for taking time off for menopausal symptoms.

Depending on the sector in which your organization operates, physical adjustments to the workplace such as installing desk fans or providing uniforms in breathable materials can provide welcome relief to those suffering with hot flushes.

A key element of menopause support is to educate the whole workforce on menopause and its effects, for example by way of webinars or talks with an expert and considering specific learning for those with a people management role.

The aim is to ensure everyone understands how menopause manifests itself and the reasons why support is necessary and gives employers an opportunity to address any concerns.

For example, some people may argue that menopause support is in some way unfair or discriminatory to those who will not experience menopause.

However, it is important to emphasize that, much like any other strand of diversity and inclusion, if one is not personally affected by those particular challenges or barriers, that is a privilege.

Employers can be clear across their workforce that an inclusive culture requires leaders and other employees to recognize this and each to play their part in helping to reduce those challenges so that there is as level a playing field as possible. This is key to creating truly equitable and meritocratic work environments.

Whatever menopause support your organization chooses to implement, regularly communicating the support options to employees and how they can take advantage of it is critical to ensure that employees are aware of the help available and feel confident to access it.


Finally, although menopause is not a protected characteristic in and of itself under discrimination legislation, it could still form the basis of employment tribunal litigation, for example, when the employer ignores or does not adequately deal with banter or jokes by its employees about menopause.

In the 2020 case of Best v. Embark on Raw Ltd.,10 an employment tribunal found that a colleague's comments to the claimant about menopause and the continued pursuit of the topic constituted unwanted conduct, which had the effect of violating the claimant's dignity and creating a humiliating environment for her at work. Consequently, her claim of unlawful harassment was successful.

A word of caution, therefore, that menopause support at work will only be truly effective where it is reflected in a genuinely inclusive workplace culture and in the lived experience of the people working in that environment.11 

This article was first published in Law360


2Sucide patterns by age


4Government slashes cost of hormone replacement therapy prescriptions in England

5Government appoints first menopause employment champion to improve workplace support

6Wellbeing of women

7Boots become the first pharmacy to offer HRT medication without a prescription; Timpson praised for offering to pay for HRT prescriptions for staff menopause



10Best v Embark on Raw Ltd ET3202006/20

11The impact of menopause in the workplace