It’s vital employers understand the new EHRC guidelines on menopause 

Having a sound understanding of both menopause and perimenopause in the workplace has therefore become vital for employersRecent guidelines issued by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) aim to simplify employers’ legal obligations to support workers going through menopause. A growing topic of conversation in the workplace and beyond, menopause has become increasingly recognised in employment guidance.

Having a sound understanding of both menopause and perimenopause in the workplace has therefore become vital for employers, with the new guidelines signalling a step forward in workplace inclusion. But how can employers practically enact lasting change?

At the heart of the guidelines, the EHRC references staggering statistics on the extent to which the menopause can impact women. Citing the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, the EHRC highlights that two-thirds of female workers aged between 40-60 with experience of menopausal symptoms reported a mostly negative impact at work. Additionally, the Fawcett Society found that one in ten women employed during menopause eventually left work due to their related symptoms. These statistics signify the weight of responsibility on employers to recognise the potential impact of menopause and perimenopause in the workplace and seek appropriate solutions.

The EHRC’s new guidelines highlight how menopause can fall under the Equality Act 2010 as a disability, if symptoms significantly impact a person’s ability to carry out day-to-day tasks. Employers should therefore consider reasonable adjustments to support menopausal workers, including adapting room temperatures through fans or ventilation systems to support workers who may be experiencing hot flushes.

To make workers more comfortable, workplaces could also be enhanced through the provision of rest areas or quiet rooms, along with a relaxation of uniform policies where appropriate for additional support. Flexibility in shift patterns, such as allowing for variation of start and finish times to accommodate workers who may be having difficulty sleeping, can also be helpful. It is also important to consider menopause in absences, recording them separately and being conscious not to penalise workers for this type of leave.

All of these adjustments demonstrate how employers can reasonably support menopausal workers in practice, but it is important to note that the list is not exhaustive. Menopause and perimenopause symptoms vary from person to person, resulting in legal and practical nuances that may not be accounted for via standalone measures. Collaboration is therefore key, and actively seeking input from workers will ensure that employees feel safe and listened to in their varied experiences.

Creating a safe space for workers to raise concerns or further ideas for adjustments will additionally foster positive conversations around menopause. This not only provides support to affected workers, but will also cultivate broader awareness throughout the organisation to prevent workplace discrimination.

Employers should communicate clearly, consistently and regularly to practice genuine commitment to supporting menopausal workers. As the guidelines highlight, this can be practiced through training sessions, lunch and learns or by creating safe spaces in staff networks, such as encouraging confidential one-to-ones with managers. These measures enact business-led policies by ensuring that they are kept under regular review and are making a positive impact.

To be a truly inclusive employer in 2024, understanding the impact of menopause and perimenopause on the workforce is essential. Demonstrating a genuine commitment to providing adequate support will not only ensure the retention and increased productivity of existing staff but could also benefit the business by attracting a wider pool of future employees, clients and suppliers.

The EHRC’s new guidelines call attention to an urgent need for employers to take the initiative and implement proactive measures that support workers going through the perimenopause and menopause. Based on existing legal principles, they clarify employer obligations and set out useful and practical tips to take. To ensure best practice in line with the new guidelines, employers should aim to proactively offer support, remove the stigma of such conversations and encourage awareness of the impact of menopause in the workplace to ensure employee wellbeing throughout a potentially difficult time.