Experiencing menopausal symptoms at work can be hard, especially in the performing arts industry.
While menopause and perimenopause are not specifically protected under the Equality Act, if you are treated unfairly at work because of menopause or perimenopause, this could amount to discrimination.
There are two main areas of law that may relate to the perimenopause and menopause:
- The Equality Act 2010 protects workers against discrimination. This includes because of their sex, a disability and their age.
- The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 says an employer must, where reasonably practical, ensure health, safety and welfare at work.
Risks of sex discrimination, disability discrimination and age discrimination
Menopause and perimenopause are not specifically protected under the Equality Act. However, if you are treated unfairly because of the menopause and perimenopause, this may amount to discrimination because, for example, of your sex and/or a disability, and/or your age.
Unfair treatment of a worker because of their sex could lead to a discrimination claim. For example, this is likely if an employer treats a woman's menopause or perimenopause symptoms less seriously than it would a male worker's health condition when considering a drop in job performance.
Also, for example, unwanted comments, jokes, banter or ridicule about a woman's menopause or perimenopause symptoms could amount to harassment, or sexual harassment depending on the nature of the unwanted behaviour.
A worker's menopause or perimenopause could potentially be regarded as a disability by an employment tribunal. If a worker has a disability, an employer must consider making changes to reduce or remove any disadvantages the worker experiences because of it. Regarding disability, the law calls these 'reasonable adjustments'. An employer must make adjustments if they are reasonable. For example, this might include an employer agreeing to record a worker's absence because of the menopause or perimenopause separately from other illness absence.
Also, disability law protects a worker against what is termed 'discrimination arising from disability'. This is where a worker is treated unfairly, not because of their disability, but because of something linked to it. For example, this could include a worker being dismissed because they forgot to do a task set by their employer. And this is when they have become forgetful and confused as a result of anxiety caused by their menopause. This anxiety would have to meet the Equality Act definition of disability.
Workers are protected against unfair treatment because of their age. This may include unfair treatment of workers because they are going through the perimenopause or menopause which are usually in their mid-forties to early fifties.