Menopause leave, not the answer, says Government, as ministers reject trial

menopause word written on wood block. menopause text on table, concept

Published this morning, in its Fourth Special Report – Menopause and the workplace: Government Response to the Committee’s First Report of Session 2022–2023ministers have rejected a proposal from the Women and Equalities Committee to introduce ‘Menopause Leave’ pilots to support those going through the menopause.

Digital health app Peppy, agrees that the Women and Equalities Committee is correct to draw attention to the issue of menopause in the workplace but believes that women will be better supported by receiving information, advice, and treatment for the symptoms, rather than being offered leave.

Kathy Abernethy, Chief Nursing Officer and Director of Menopause Services, Peppy said:

“While we welcome this focus on menopause as a workplace issue: approval of sick leave just isn’t the answer here. While it’s true many individuals do take time off work due to menopausal symptoms, what colleagues really need is easy access to information and appropriate treatment to effectively manage those symptoms.

“Many workplaces can and do offer great support, which is very important, but access to treatment – whether that is HRT, lifestyle changes, nutritional support or therapy approaches (or often all of these) – is essential, and workplaces who support their people to make informed decisions around treatment choices, may find that absence is far less common.”

What others are saying

Social media has been buzzing with comments about the government’s decision. In this thread on LinkedIn, Employment Lawyer, Emma O’Connor explains:

“Menopause is already protected under age, sex, disability. However, this misses the point – menopause isn’t an “AGE thing” it’s a “STAGE thing”, it can happen at any stage in a woman’s life. Also, why does menopause and it’s symptoms have to be a disability? Yes they can be but why do women have to wait to get “protected”. Many symptoms don’t meet the definition threshold and also no woman or her life journey is the same!”

In the same discussion, Andy Young, Partner at bpresearch says:

The rejection of much of the proposed “menopause law equalities act” to protect the rights of women in the workplace who are or will be going through #menopause is beyond disappointing. To suggest it discriminates against men doesn’t sit comfortably with me. Indeed, the menopause discriminates against women and the proposals felt like they were a positive step in bringing some sensible legislation into the workplace and recognise the impact that the menopause can have on women in particular but also their families, partners and friends. We are making progress as an employer (thanks to amazing advocates like our very own Kate S.) and I am proud our business are taking steps to become an accredited and recognised “menopause friendly” workplace.

But it doesn’t stop there – the report is published at the same time that a poll suggests healthcare for women in the UK is as bad as Kazakhstan and worse than that provided in China. Look at the stats on the link below, it ain’t pretty!! Britain ranked lower than the US, Australia, New Zealand, France and Germany in the 2021 Hologic Global Women’s Health Index.

In summary, the onus is back on employers to lead by example and show that they care about and will support women through issues such as the menopause. With the proper support, employers can help women manage their symptoms and ultimately keep them at work, which will help with the retention of women, improve women in leadership figures and help reduce the gender pay gap.

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