For women in the workplace, pregnancy is considered one of nine protected characteristics under the Equality Act in the UK. That means that it is against the law to discriminate against anyone because of pregnancy or maternity, but it also means that you're entitled to reasonable adjustments to support you in doing your job. With menopause being an unavoidable, and often highly disruptive change to a woman's body, which can severely alter her ability to function at work, isn't it time that it too became a protected characteristic? And is the path being laid out for just that?
How can menopause affect a woman's needs in the workplace?
In particular, hot flushes can make it uncomfortable at work and can leave you feeling the need to change clothes. Poor concentration, tiredness, poor memory, feeling low/depressed and lowered confidence can all also impact how you work and how you feel about work. However, with the right support, women can thrive at work through menopause and beyond. Importantly, menopausal women are extremely valuable, experienced members of the workforce, and if they either want or need to work, it is a loss to all of us if they are pushed out of the workplace through a lack of support and understanding.
Motivating Morning Facial Spritz
What are reasonable adjustments?
Adjustments only have to be made if it’s reasonable to do so. What's a reasonable thing to ask for depends on things like:
- Your concern
- How practicable the changes are
- If the change you ask for would overcome the disadvantage
- The size of the organisation
- How much money and resources are available
- The cost of making the changes
- If any changes have already been made
- Change the way things are done (e.g. company policies)
- Change a physical feature (e.g. altering staircases and steps for disabilities)
- Provide extra aids or services (e.g. audio facilities for employees who are visually impaired)
Motivating Morning Body Oil
What reasonable adjustments could help menopausal women at work?
Some of the reasonable adjustments that have been suggested to support women in different working environments include:
- Flexible working
- Time off
- A different uniform (made from breathable fabrics) or multiple uniforms to change into if you are experiencing hot flushes
- Moving your workstation to a cooler part of the office or asking for a fan
- Access to technologies that can help with memory issues
Motivating Morning Diffuser
What's happening right now to support menopause rights?
They have explicitly highlighted that they want menopause to become a protected characteristic like pregnancy, to give working women more rights, including piloting a policy of 'menopause leave'. They have also suggested the government introduce a dedicated ‘Menopause Ambassador’ in a bid to keep more women in the workplace.
Stylist magazine commented that the committee's aim is: