Menopause in the workplace: when women are filing complaints
For several years now, 18 October rhymes with « World Menopause Day ».
And this year, on 7 September, the first World Menopause Day and Work Day has been launched for the first time on the initiative of the European Menopause and Andropause Society (EMAS).
This is a signal that only confirms the ones before: the veil on the subject of menopause in the workplace is being lifted little by little, whether it is when talking about the economic impacts or when considering the impacts on the life of postmenopausal women.
And these women themselves are less and less hesitant to put these impacts on the (work) table, or even to confront their employers by filing a complaint in court.
Multiplying cases before the courts
We recently had the opportunity to discuss how a woman in the United Kingdom lodged a complaint against her employer in October 2019 for not having made the necessary reasonable adjustments in the context of her serious menopause symptoms. In this case a tribunal ruling at the end of 2020 recognized that she was « from 1 November 2017 disabled by reason of (…) symptoms of the menopause » .
This case is not isolated. In an article published in early August, the Guardian indicates that according to the latest data collected in the United Kingdom, the number of women who have filed a complaint against their employer for discrimination related to the impact of their menopause is increasing almost exponentially.
Between 2018 and 2020 the number of recorded cases more than tripled.
Court decisions, however, according to the Guardian, are not always very consistent from case to case.
In August 2020 a Birmingham tribunal, similarly to the case mentioned above, in ruled in favor of a claimant, considering that she was « disabled by reason of menopause or symptoms of menopause (including anxiety and problems with concentration) » 1 . But at the end of 2019, in a similar case, the Leicester court on the contrary did not side with the claimant2.
Decisions would appear to depend on the sensitivity of the judge hearing the case.
Could the levels of sensitivity change following the release in February 2021 of the new version of the Equal Treatment Bench Book, where for the first time recommendations appear for courts to take into account menopause symptoms experienced by the women during hearings? Admittedly, these recommendations in no way relate to the court decisions themselves. Nonetheless, by detailing the impacts of menopause symptoms and recommending possible adjustments, one might think that they could influence awareness and thereby sensitivities.
In any case, the inconsistencies observed to date do not prevent the number of complaints from continuing to increase: over the first 6 months of 2021, cases before the courts already represent nearly 2/3 of the total of those of year 2020.
The veil definitely does not seem to be close to falling back.
Are you interested in the experiences of women at different stages of their menopause? Would you like a reminder of the physiology of menopause and the main symptoms? Download our free ebook, Menopause Story(ies).