Acas has published new guidance for employers on how to manage the impact of the menopause at work.

For employees experiencing symptoms, it can be a very stressful time and they might find that their ability to work is impaired. For employers, the menopause is a potential health and safety matter and an issue that requires delicate handling.

The new Acas guidance outlines the support mechanisms employers should have in place. The guidance also offers tips to reduce the risk of discrimination and explains the duties an employer has to support an employee going through the menopause under the Equality Act 2010 and the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.

It is very much in the interests of a business to support its workers with menopausal symptoms. As well as ensuring compliance with legal obligations, managing issues arising from menopause in the workplace sensitively and effectively should help an employer retain talented staff.

What is the menopause?

The menopause is a natural milestone when a woman stops having periods. It usually occurs when someone enters their late forties or early fifties (but it can happen earlier or later than this). Whilst some women have no symptoms, for many, symptoms last for about four years, and can last a lot longer. Therefore, it is important for there to be awareness about the possible long-term impact of the menopause, so that employers can offer appropriate support.

Symptoms may include:

  • difficulty sleeping and night sweats
  • feeling tired and lacking energy
  • mood swings
  • feeling anxious and panic attacks
  • hot flushes
  • struggling to remember things, concentrate and focus
  • aches and pains including muscle and joint stiffness
  • headaches, including migraines

If an employee does not get the help and support they need, the effects of the menopause can lead to them losing confidence to do their job, suffering from mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression or, as a last resort, even resigning.

What legal protections exist for women going through the menopause?

Women going through the menopause may enjoy protection under the Equality Act 2010, which protects against discrimination, and the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, which obliges an employer, where reasonably practical, to ensure health, safety and welfare in the workplace.

The menopause does not enjoy specific protection from discrimination. However, if a worker is mistreated because of the menopause, this may amount to discrimination on the grounds of their sex, a disability and/or their age.

How can employers help ease the impact of the menopause?

The guidance provides lots of helpful practical tips for employers. These range from appointing a health and wellbeing champion for employees to talk to about health concerns, to offering adjustments, such as flexible working hours, changes to their duties or giving them a private area where they can rest and manage their symptoms.

Employers can also consider having a menopause policy in place, which can help make employees more aware of what their employer can do to help them.

The full Acas guidance can be viewed here.

If you have any questions about this topic, please do not hesitate to contact our expert employment team on 0161 941 4000 or by email.