New guidance on Menopause and menstruation at work launched

Whilst the government has rejected calls for the menopause to be added as a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010, the UK’s national standards body, The British Standard Institution (BSI) has issued new guidance to businesses and workplaces as to how to best accommodate those impacted by the menopause and menstruation

Women over 50 are the fastest-growing segment of the workforce, but still all too often in workplaces designed in the first place for and by men. The Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 states that it is “the duty of every employer to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of all employees” which extends to those experiencing menstruation and the menopause, hence the issuing of guidance to try and help employers.

The guidance states that while “recent discussions have highlighted the need for workplaces to improve how they support employees experiencing menstruation and menopause transition … only a minority of UK workplaces have implemented specific policies that address menstrual and menopausal health and wellbeing”.

Any employer and business owner would be advised to consider the guidance and ensure that they are in the process of creating specific policies in relation to these issues. By assessing and implementing the suggestions contained in guidelines on menstrual and menopausal health, open conversations can be encouraged and accurate information disseminated, which, as the guidance stresses, is “important for creating positive cultural change both within the workplace and beyond”.

The guidance notes that 50% of the population will experience menstruation and menopause and all employers are likely to encounter the issues raised. While the majority of employees and workers are and will be able to manage with (reasonably) minor adjustments including toilets, fans and mobility access - such as space to move around, stretch, and leave a seated or standing position regularly - the guidance also goes into detail about common conditions surrounding menstruation and menopause where employees and workers may need more specific support.

The guidance includes practical actions that can be taken, and, as we have noted previously, any steps that can be taken now by employers are likely to assist both staying on the right side of the law in the future. As we have previously quoted, ACAS suggests that “If someone affected by the menopause is put at a disadvantage and treated less favourably because of something related to their disability, this could be 'discrimination arising from disability'.”

The guidance should also be of interest to any businesses building or creating new work or office spaces, and any interior office designers, as it goes into some detail on a practical level as to best practice in relation to toilets, temperature, quiet spaces and so on. Reading and implementing the guidance may well assist businesses to attract and retain talent, crucial to business success.

Posted on 06/07/2023 by Ortolan

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