EMPLOYERS are being reminded that staff going through the menopause have “substantial” legal protection, despite a government refusal to increase their rights.

Ministers turned down a recommendation from the House of Commons’ women and equalities committee to introduce “menopause leave” pilot projects.

The government also rejected a proposal to make the menopause a protected characteristic in its own right under the Equality Act of 2010.

But Tabytha Cunningham, associate in the employment department of Southampton law firm Paris Smith, said employers should ensure they are adequately supporting staff.

Women aged 45-55 are the fastest-growing demographic in the workforce, she said.

“The menopause statistically affects women between the ages of around 45-55 years old. Less favourable treatment of staff experiencing menopause can therefore already give rise to claims for age and sex discrimination,” she said.

“Several successful claims have already been bought in the Employment Tribunal on this basis. Any health condition (including the menopause) can also be considered a disability under the Equality Act if its symptoms have a substantial and long-term effect on the employee’s ability to carry out their normal day to day activities.

“Previous cases in the Employment Tribunal have clearly established that typical menopause symptoms can amount to a disability under this test, triggering the employer’s duty to make reasonable adjustments.”

Reasonable adjustments could include changes to the environment, such as temperature control or moving a desk, and changes to terms of employment, such as altering working hours or allowing home working to help the employee manage symptoms.

“All employees also have the right to request flexible working for any reason, including to help them manage symptoms connected to the menopause and employers must follow a set procedure to consider these requests,” she added.

“Employers should aim to create a positive and open working environment to minimise the risk of any claims arising. This should include training mangers to ensure that they are equipped to support employees and ensuring they are following the ACAS guidance on managing the effects of the menopause.

As part of their health and safety obligations employers should consider whether menopausal symptoms could be impacted by the working environment and ensure they are providing adequate facilities. We’d recommend as a matter of best practice that employers also implement a specific policy which addresses the menopause and the support available.”

Paris Smith is running a virtual training course on the subject for HR professionals and those with HR responsibilities on February 15, 10am-11.30am, with details at parissmith.co.uk