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Menopause at work: Government sets out next steps

We review the government’s response to the Women and Equalities Committee Report on ‘Menopause and the Workplace’.

The government has published its keenly awaited response to the Women and Equalities Committee Report on ‘Menopause and the Workplace’.

The Committee’s report was published in July 2022, so the response has taken around six months to pull together; a relatively swift turnaround in Westminster terms. Running to twenty-two pages, the response considers each of the Committee’s twelve recommendations in detail, accepting or partly accepting a number of the suggestions.

The first section of the response examines healthcare issues, such as training for GPs, menopause-related prescription costs and learning resources for schools. The committee’s recommendation that the government should lead on disseminating good quality and accurate information about menopause is accepted in principle, and the response outlines a number of initiatives already in progress.

However, the second and third sections of the response, covering ‘Menopause at Work’ and ‘Legal Reform’ respectively are of most interest to employers and HR practitioners.

Recommendations accepted

The Menopause Employment Champion

The response accepts in principle the Committee recommendation that the government should appoint a ‘Menopause Employment Champion’ to work with stakeholders from business, including small and medium enterprises, unions and advisory groups to encourage and disseminate good practice to employers. The Champion, who will be a DWP Ministerial appointment, will ‘drive forward work with employers on menopause workplace issues’ and work with employers to ‘keep people experiencing menopause symptoms in work and progressing’. The role will be exclusively employment-focused, as opposed to the related, existing role of Women’s Health Ambassador, which has a broader remit.

New legal guidance

The response states that the government is developing ‘strengthened guidance’ that will give ‘a set of clear and simple principles’ that employers would be expected to apply to support disabled people and those with long term health conditions at work. However, this only partially actions the Committee’s recommendation as, while the guidance will be relevant to many individuals experiencing menopause, it will not focus exclusively or specifically on menopause issues.

Flexible working reforms

The government accepts the Committee’s recommendation to make flexible working a ‘day one’ right and to encourage greater dialogue between employers and staff around flexible working requests. In fact, these reforms are already underway.

Recommendations rejected

Model menopause policies

The Committee recommended that the government should produce model menopause policies to assist employers setting out, as a minimum, advice on workplace adjustments, flexible working, sick leave for menopause symptoms, and any provision for education and training. However, while the government states that is supportive of this ambition, it has declined to introduce a mandatory standard form policy or framework. The response acknowledges that many organisations have already introduced workplace policies and other forms of support, such as training for employees and line managers and ‘sign-posting’ employees to occupational health services, and recognises that some guidance is already available (e.g. from ACAS). Rather than producing a ‘one-size-fits-all’ model, the response commits to highlighting best practice within particular sectors or industries, so employers can develop policies tailored to the work they do.

Menopause leave

The government does not accept the recommendation that it should work with a large public sector employer to develop and pilot a dedicated ‘menopause leave’ scheme. The response states that the government’s efforts will focus on helping employers to support employees experiencing menopause to remain in work (for example, using flexible working). Concern is expressed that introducing a dedicated ‘menopause leave’ scheme might be counter-productive to this goal.

Changes to Equality Act 2010

The Committee recommended two fairly radical reforms to Equality Act 2010, both of which have been rejected in the consultation response. The first was that the government should ‘immediately commence’ the dormant s14 Equality Act 2010, which concerns cases where a discrimination takes place ‘because of a combination of two relevant protected characteristics’. The Committee sought to combine ‘age’ and ‘sex’ to best protect women experiencing menopause. However, the response explains that s14 applies to seven of the nine protected characteristics covered by the statute, creating a possible 21 new ‘dual protected characteristics’. It is currently not possible to ‘cherry-pick’ just one of these, without bringing them all into force, which would be a very wide-reaching legal change. Secondly, the government has declined to progress the Committee’s suggestion to consult on introducing menopause as a new and distinct tenth protected characteristic. Evidence gathered from stakeholders suggests that the three existing protected characteristics of age, sex and disability already provide individuals experiencing menopause with adequate legal protection.


It is important to note that the response document outlines the government’s approach and actions in England. As health is a devolved matter, administrations in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales will determine their own policies and approach to the menopause.

The response states on a number of occasions that women over the age of 50 represent the fastest growing section of the workforce, and that a key aim of the proposals is to retain and support this talented group of employees.

Some campaigners have cited the response as a ‘missed opportunity’ to bolster protection for this demographic, in particular because the recommendation to trial and introduce ‘Menopause Leave’ will not be pursued.

However, it may come as something of a relief to employers that the government has chosen to take a fairly ‘hands-off’ approach to this high-profile issue rather than choosing to legislate, or to mandate a standard form menopause policy or costly statutory leave scheme. We know that many of our clients are committed to improving employee support around menopause but might prefer to use existing resources or policies to do this, rather than introducing something new.

One aspect of the response that has attracted media attention is the report’s observation that amending discrimination law to specifically cover menopause ‘may inadvertently create new forms of discrimination, for example, discrimination risks towards men suffering from long-term medical conditions’. This statement is not fully explored or explained. However, this seems to be part of a broader concern that amending the Equality Act could serve to increase legal complexity, without meaningfully increasing protection for individuals experiencing menopause.

The full government response is available online.

If you require further assistance or guidance on this topic, please contact our employment law solicitors.

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