World of HR: Workplace protections for menopausal women face hurdle in the UK

The government rejected the proposed legislation, citing concerns for male workers.
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Francis Scialabba

· 3 min read

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Men’s bodies go through unique, significant changes in later adulthood…No, wait. They don’t. But women go through a major physiological change known as menopause, with symptoms ranging from from brain fog to heart palpitations lasting up to a decade, all while many are trying to navigate their careers. Sounds fun, right? A bipartisan group of UK lawmakers focused on how employers can better support women at work doesn’t think so.

Where in the world? Some 92% of menopausal women in the UK say their symptoms impacted their ability to function at work, according to a July 2022 report from the Women and Equalities Committee. The report concluded with proposed legislation that would expand the 2010 Equality Act to include employment protections for menopausal women.

However, the British government struck down the proposal last month, saying the Equality Act, as it stands, sufficiently protects menopausal women, according to Bloomberg. It claimed that new protections could have “unintended consequences which may inadvertently create new forms of discrimination, for example, discrimination risks towards men suffering from long-term medical conditions.” It also argued that any significant changes to the Equality Act could result in a major reform of the broader law.

The committee responded by accusing the government of ignoring the problem, the Guardian reported. “The evidence to our inquiry was crystal clear that urgent action was needed across healthcare and work settings to properly address women’s needs, yet government progress has been glacial and its response complacent,” committee chair Caroline Nokes said in a letter to the health minister.

Satellite view. A 2021 overview from the European Menopause and Andropause Society recommends that employers develop specific policies related to menopausal health, and that HR professionals consult women on accommodations. The issue is getting more attention in the US, as well, where some companies are taking steps to offer menopause-specific health benefits, such as access to educational materials or specialized clinicians, or menopause PTO.

Women’s rights advocates say employers need to do more to help reduce the societal bias towards older women. “We’re not going anywhere. We have things to do. We’ve got places to see. We’ve got goals to achieve, and we still have a lot to offer the world,” Laura Stratte, a nurse at a menopause-related healthcare company, told Fortune.—KP

HR is challenging. HR news doesn’t have to be.

HR Brew keeps you effective in the fast-changing business environment.