Response to the Government’s rejection of menopause leave

In Jane Hartman-Jennett CFIOSH’s recent article in IOSH magazine, ‘The Forgotten Risk’, she discussed the potential consequences of not recognising menopause as part of the risk assessment process, highlighting that while pregnancy was covered as specific risk in legislation, menopause currently is not. Here Jane discusses that decision.

In July 2022, the UK government published a policy paper, ‘Menopause and the Workplace’ but, disappointingly, it rejected the provision for menopause leave, as well as menopause being added to the list of protected characteristics under equality laws; citing that it was already adequately covered by age and sex discrimination.

The paper contained 10 recommendations for both the UK government, employers and other parties. Recommendations for government action included:

  • Nomination of a menopause ambassador
  • Menopause transition to be referenced as a priority issue in policy agendas
  • Development of a methodology to quantify the cost of menopause to the UK as a whole

For employers, the paper encourages them to run awareness training and have open conversations about the menopause in the workplace as well as:

  • Train line managers in menopause and its effects
  • Make workplace adjustments where required
  • Have flexible working arrangements if required
  • Include menopause in their Employee Assistance Programme

And while the paper rejected menopause leave as a legal right in the same way as maternity leave, it did recommend that employers review their sickness and performance policies to ensure they consider the impact that menopause can have on some women as well as post-menopausal opportunities.

As safety and health practitioners, we can often be guilty of concentrating more on the safety aspect of our roles but regarding workplace risk for women, both are intrinsically linked from pregnancy to menopause. Unless we consider the wellbeing aspect of these major life changes that women transition through, then (as previously outlined) there is a risk to their physical safety and, potentially, those they work with.

And in a piece of good news to end with, it has been announced that the UK government is keeping to the commitment it made in 2021 and as of April of this year an annual prepayment of £18.70 for hormone replacement therapy (HRT) prescriptions will be introduced, promising women who wish to access HRT to help alleviate symptoms, hundreds of pounds in potential savings.

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