Whilst workplaces are finally moving on and managers are becoming better educated about the menopause along with its symptoms and effect on women, unfair treatment including prejudice and discrimination, is sadly still being experienced.
So, how can you protect yourself by taking practical steps if you are being treated differently due to your menopause and its symptoms, and what might be unfair in the eyes of the law?
1. Make it known that you are experiencing symptoms, how they are affecting you and what support you’re looking for. Speak to your Manager or HR or find someone more senior whom you trust and pass them a letter from your GP if needs be, to support your position. This is a big step, for sure, but if you don’t disclose this then the company can always say they didn’t know and any treatment you receive and complain about is nothing to do with the menopause. The employer can be under a legal duty to make certain changes to your working environment/pattern in some cases (reasonable adjustments) but this duty arguably doesn’t kick in if they don’t know in the first place.
2. Ensure that you take a note of any conversations like the one above or any difficult conversations/comments that people make that you believe are targeted at you unfairly because of the menopause. Good advice is to email yourself on your personal email address as this is timed and dated and acts as a solid record of what was said as soon as possible after the event.
3. Not all unfair treatment will be discrimination but that doesn’t mean that you should bear it. There should be routes within your organisation to bring a complaint or grievance if a situation cannot be resolved informally, which you should try at first. Some menopause policies exist but these are still rare.
4. On its own, the menopause is not what’s called a “protected characteristic” giving rise to automatic protection from discrimination, but its symptoms, for some women, mean that they will be legally classed as “disabled” and therefore protected.
Discrimination can cover so many areas linked to the menopause – sex and disability discrimination (including age) being the main examples, plus harassment and victimisation. Basically, the conduct you experience would be more likely to fall within this area if you believe that you’re being treated this way directly because of the menopause (e.g. a drop off in concentration giving rise to a performance improvement plan when you’ve alerted work to this being one of your symptoms) and you can see a clear difference for example in the way men in the organisation are treated (being a female only condition).
By Emma Hammond at Gunner Cooke - www.gunnercooke.com
For more information on handling menopause at work, you can find related articles here.
For help increasing menopause awareness in your organisation contact Talking Menopause