Lawyer calls on employers to introduce menopause policies
An employment solicitor is calling for greater recognition of menopause in the workplace.
Liam Entwistle, employment law specialist and chairman at Wright, Johnston & Mackenzie LLP, believes more employers should take steps to introduce menopause policies, in order to acknowledge the effects menopause can have.
He said: “As menopause is a biological fact, it should be spoken about openly, but for some reason it remains a taboo subject in many workplaces.
“Despite the fact some employees experience psychological effects or physiological symptoms which can be truly debilitating, there remains a distinct lack of dedicated support.”
Such a policy could potentially include access to flexible working as well as access to support services such as counselling or career advice. Mr Entwistle believes introducing additional support would have business benefits in areas such as staff retention.
He added: “Of course, not everyone is affected by menopause in the same way, so some employers are simply unsure of the most appropriate way to provide support without stigmatising female employees by introducing some kind of blanket policy.
“Employers may be fearful they appear to be discriminating against women – but on the other hand, it could be argued that failing to acknowledge menopause is a form of age and gender discrimination in itself.
“While we can’t legislate for every possible change people may go through in their lives, we do know roughly half the working population will experience menopause at some point in their working life.”
Mr Entwistle believes workplaces need to create an environment where employees can have an open dialogue on the subject, noting that a number of women’s advocacy groups are promoting better understanding of this subject, while some organisations have even started to introduce ‘menopause policies’.
But he believes there is still a long way to go when it comes to removing the stigma around discussing menopause in the workplace.
He concluded: “It is essential that any such policy does not patronise or alienate employees. It must empower the workforce and let workers know they have options.
“My first piece of advice to any employer considering this type of policy would be to talk to your employees. Engage with them and enter into an open dialogue to find out what kind of policy they’d welcome, challenges they foresee, and any first-hand experience they have of dealing with this issue in the workplace.
“Employers have the opportunity to be really forwarding thinking and lead the way here. Even if the law doesn’t directly recognise menopause in the workplace yet, as an employer, you can take steps to do so.”