Our client wants to know how they can support staff who are going through the menopause and if it is a good idea to intervene in what might be a delicate time for employees going through the change.
Whilst is it not advisable for you to confront employees going through the menopause or put them on the spot in any way, it is important that they have a clear and open system for supporting these employees. This ensures that any worker who needs additional support feels able to approach management on the issue and are fully aware of the steps that can be taken by the company on their behalf.
You have a duty to ensure the health, safety and welfare of your employees, and to undertake risk assessments to assess risks that the workplace may pose. In addition, the Equality Act 2010 outlines that employees must not be discriminated against due to any form of disability. Although an employee going through the menopause is not automatically protected by the provisions of the Act, the symptoms that can arise from the menopause may be classed as a disability if they meet the required definition.
To defend against any liabilities, and potentially costly compensation awards, if you take steps to offer support and assistance to all individuals who are going through the menopause, they will experience real benefits. By fostering a workplace where employees feel safe, you are more likely to retain the skills and experience of your employees.
To clearly outline organisational procedures that are in place to support and assist those going through the menopause, it may be useful to create an official policy which may include the following:
- a general introduction, highlighting what the policy is for and reaffirming your commitment to treating all individuals fairly
- an outline of the aims and objectives of the policy
- an outline of any action or support groups that are being put in place to help, alongside any intentions to work with the menopause actions and third-party groups
- a list of the type of support that you can offer, e.g time away from work where the symptoms are severe, encouraging communication, easy access to toilet facilities by repositioning the employee, providing alternative tasks to heavy lifting to combat increased levels of fatigue and muscle strain, etc.
Individuals respond differently to the menopause and it is essential that you are fully aware of this fact. Some women may be relatively unaffected whilst others experience significant difficulties for prolonged periods of time.
You should therefore ensure that all line managers and HR representatives are fully conversant with the policy on responding to the menopause and are able to respond to it in a non-discriminatory and open manner. Essentially, employees should feel comfortable and secure approaching this topic with their managers.