Suffering the Menopause at Work

Suffering the Menopause at Work

When looking at menopause in the workplace, employers need to be aware not to discriminate against female employees based on their menopausal symptoms. Common phrases from menopausal employees are;

  • “Help, my brain has turned to mush”

  • “I’ve had a migraine for 3 years”

  • “I feel dizzy, and my memory is affected”

  • “I experience pins and needles in my arms and legs”

  • “My HRT has side-effects”

  • “I can’t do my job anymore”

What is the Menopause?

The menopause is a natural part of ageing in women that usually occurs between 45 and 55 years of age as oestrogen levels decline.  With our population now living longer, and working for longer, it's vital that staff are supported to stay well and thrive in the workplace.

An employer has an obligation to support female members of staff experiencing menopause symptoms with ‘reasonable adjustments’.

Menopause at Your Workplace

Studies have shown that menopause symptoms can have a significant impact on attendance and performance in the workplace. 

Menopause is not just a gender or age issue, as it can impact on colleagues both directly or indirectly, and it should therefore be considered as an organisational issue. 

With 68% of employees in the UK who are female (9.3million people), it is staggering the number of workers who will at some point face menopausal symptoms in their job. Currently 3.5million UK workers are female and aged over 50. With these high numbers involved, the number of women likely to be impacted in their job and struggling is very high and most places of work will have female workers affected.

Menopause Symptoms

Symptoms differ from woman to woman, and the range of symptoms is vast, anything from a headache to dizziness, depression, anxiety or memory loss. Unfortunately, many of the symptoms in the table below could be indicative of other, sometimes more serious illnesses, which is why it is important for women to seek medical opinion about their condition if they suspect the menopause is having an impact.

There are at least 30 symptoms of menopause, not all women experience all of these, but most women suffer with many of them at some point during their menopause:

Physical Symptoms

Adult Acne


Bloating or constipation


Developing a new allergy or food intolerance

Dizziness, feeling feint


Dry or itchy skins


Electric shocks


Fatigue – feeling tired or unwell




Heavy bleeding


Hot sweats or ‘flashes’


Irregular periods, no periods


Joint pain


Loss of hair, hair loss


Night sweats




Palpitations, irregular heartbeat, cardiovascular and circulatory irregularities

Reduced saliva


Skin, hair and nails (lack of oestrogen creating lack of collagen, hair becomes weak, nails become brittle, skin loses texture)


Sore breasts


Stress incontinence


Teeth and gum problems


Urinary tract infections, more trips to the toilet

Vaginal dryness


Weight gain



Brain Function & Other Body Symptoms


Changes in libido


Depletion in body’s ability to produce vitamin B12 and vitamin D


Depression, feeling low, mood swings




Insomnia, disturbed sleep

Lack of concentration


Memory loss (temporary), forgetfulness

Panic Disorder



Early Menopause

A few women start the menopause early, even in their twenties, thirties or forties. This can be down to abdominal surgery or pregnancy complications (the removal of the uterus and reproductive ovaries with the effect of reducing or removing oestrogen from the body), medication, or a family history of early menopause. So, it’s not just an ‘older woman’s’ complaint and could affect any adult female employee.

The Law and Menopause

Menopause is an occupational health issue, but it is not a recognised disability. However, under the Equality Act 2010, a person is disabled if they have a physical or mental impairment which has an adverse and long-term effect on their ability to carry out normal day to day activities.

This means that the menopause is not a specific protected characteristic under the Equality Act, however, if an employee or worker is put at a disadvantage and treated less favourably because of their menopause symptoms, this could be discrimination if related to a protected characteristic, for example:

  • age

  • disability

  • gender reassignment

  • sex

[See Mandy Davies’ 2017 ‘grow boobs’ dismissal case brought against her employer).

As Menopause could be the issue that is behind a change in an employee’s ability to carry out their role, some organisations are surprised to find that menopause can therefore be protected under the disability strand of the Equality Act.

But the definition needs to be a physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on the person’s ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities. If this is the case, you may have a disability discrimination claim against your employer if they are less than sympathetic and unwilling to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ in your workplace, or role changes to accommodate your needs. This could mean agreeing to flexible working or reduced hours. Some employers for example may refuse staff days off sick with menopause symptoms, leading some women to hide the true nature of their illness for fear of an employer’s poor attitude or their own embarrassment.

Also, under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 an employer must, where reasonably practical, ensure everyone's health, safety and welfare at work. You might have a Health & Safety claim depending on your situation and your employer’s actions. An employer who refuses a menopausal woman access to a window, fresh air or air conditioning in hot temperatures could find themselves hit with a claim.

Menopause in the Workplace – Discrimination

It is good practice for employers to have a ‘menopause policy’ in their employee handbook and to formalise a process for menopausal women to make a complaint or request without fear of being bullied into working when they are simply not up to it.

Employers might like to discuss the woman’s role with her and how disruption could be minimised, and her wellbeing needs supported. Some menopausal women ask to reduce their hours for example or ask for more flexible hours, or shorter workdays. 


If you would like to speak to a member of our employment team about creating equality in your workplace, please Contact Us.

Top 5 Menopause Steps for Employers

  1. Don’t discriminate - the needs of female workers are different from male workers

  2. Be supportive and sympathetic - discuss health and wellbeing with female employees

  3. Set up a menopause procedure - for work change requests and publish this internally

  4. Make ‘reasonable adjustments’ - when asked to do so by a female employee

  5. Don’t dismiss a female employee on the grounds of menopause symptoms alone.



Helpful links and associated web pages: 

International Women's Day - Imagine a gender equal world. A world free of bias, stereotypes and discrimination. A world that's diverse, equitable, and inclusive. A world where difference is valued and celebrated. Together we can forge women's equality. Collectively we can all #BreakTheBias.

Napo guide to the menopause at work.pdf

World Menopause Day ( 18 October

Menopause Hormones - What are they ands how do they change?

Menopause and employment law - Menopause Friendly Accreditation

5 Things men should know about menopause – BBC article

CASES - Mandy Davies Menopause case against her employer 

ACAS - Menopause and the law: Menopause at work

UNISON - The-menopause-and-work-A-UNISON-Guide.pdf  

Menopause and the workplace | NHS Employers


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