Menopause in the Workplace

by Pat Duckworth

Relevant legislation

There are a number of pieces of legislation that can apply to menopause in the workplace. The most significant are listed below.

  • The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 requires all employers to protect the health, safety and welfare of all their employees. The act deals with issues such as toilet access and breaks, personal protective equipment, workstation design, workplace temperature, hot work (such as in kitchens), ventilation and standing at work.
  • The Workplace (Health Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992, as amended, cover a wide range of workplace requirements, including maintenance, ventilation, temperature, sanitary and washing facilities, workstations and seating requirements, drinking water and provisions relating to disabled workers.
  • The Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations 1992, as amended, together with specific assessments for users of VDUs, cover work environment issues. Employers should provide sufficient space to change position and vary movements and ensure that any equipment does not produce excess heat that would cause discomfort to operators.
  • The Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) at Work Regulations 1992, as amended, make it clear that, if such equipment is needed, the state of health of the wearer should be taken into account and staff should, if possible, be given a choice of PPE. It should be personal to the wearer.
  • The Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) may apply: although the menopause is not an illness or a disability, some symptoms (such as stress and depression), if they are experienced over a long period and at a significant intensity, may fall within the scope of the DDA.
  • The Sex Discrimination Act (SDA) 1975 may be applied where women feel that they are receiving unfair treatment or being harassed.
  • The Employment Equality (Age) Regulations 2006 outlaw direct and indirect discrimination, harassment and victimisation on the grounds of age.
  • The Working Time Regulations 1998 cover issues such as holidays, breaks and working hours.

This is not an exhaustive list, but it is illustrative of the range of legal provisions that employers should be aware of when handling complaints from employees relating to menopause issues. You may wish to obtain legal advice if you receive such a complaint.