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Menopause: Government response to the “menopause and the workplace” report

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By Hilary Larter & Ceri Fuller

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Published 07 February 2023

Overview

The Government has published its response to the Women and Equalities Committee’s report on menopause in the workplace, rejecting two of the key recommendations.

THE FACTS

In July last year, the House of Commons Women and Equalities Committee published a report, “Menopause in the Workplace”.  This report made several recommendations relevant to the workplace, including that the Government should: 

  • Appoint a Menopause Ambassador to champion good practices;
  • Produce model menopause policies;
  • Trial specific menopause leave with a large public sector employer;
  • Bring forward legislation to make flexible working a day one right and issue employers with guidance encouraging them to grant reasonable requests;
  • Implement legislation introducing sex and age as a dual protected characteristic to protect women going through menopause;
  • Consult on making menopause a protected characteristic, including a duty to provide reasonable adjustments for menopausal employees.

The report also called on the Health and Safety Executive and the Equality and Human Rights Commission to provide guidance on menopause. 

The Government has now published its response to this report, accepting (or partially) accepting some of the recommendations and rejecting others. 

Notably, and to the disappointment of menopause campaigners, the Government has rejected some key recommendations.  It has rejected:  the trial of menopause leave; consultation on making menopause a protected characteristic; and the implementation of legislation introducing age and sex as a dual protected characteristic.

The Government has also rejected the recommendation that it produce model menopause policies, commenting that many organisations have already introduced workplace policies and other forms of support (which is also our experience of larger employers), and that CIPD and ACAS have already produced resources to support employers and employees.

However, the Government has confirmed that it will appoint a Menopause Employment Champion “in due course”.  The champion will report to ministers at regular intervals, and will drive forward work with employers on menopause workplace issues, spearheading a proposed employer-led communications campaign.  It has accepted the recommendation that legislation be brought forward to make the right to flexible working a day one right (which was already a manifesto commitment).  Legislation to deliver this right is currently going through Parliament, though there is no clear timeframe for when any changes will take effect.

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR EMPLOYERS?

The impact of the report on employers and menopausal women at work will be limited. 

Many employers are already ahead of the game, appointing menopause champions, introducing menopause policies, and offering education on menopause to their employees.  With the increased awareness of challenge faced by menopausal women in the workplace, we are seeing an increase in menopause related grievances and claims.  Employers who are not already doing so may therefore wish to take a pro-active approach in supporting menopausal women in the workplace.

Women and Equalities Commission: Menopause and the workplace: government response to the Committee’s Frist Report

Employers should note the draft Code’s requirement to be “honest and transparent about the fact that it is prepared, if negotiations fail and agreement cannot be reached, to attempt to unilaterally impose changes or to dismiss employees in order to force changes through”. This may also trigger the obligation to consult collectively on proposed dismissals at an early stage in negotiations. In turn that potentially constrains employers by forcing them to consult on dismissals before they have had a chance to listen to what individual employees say about a proposed change to terms and conditions and “upping the ante” in the process.

Draft Code of Practice on dismissal and reengagement

 

 

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