The onus is on employers to make sure workplaces are fit for purpose in terms of the health and safety of their employees.
But where does menopause fit in with this?
There’s a legal duty on employers to carry out a suitable, sufficient assessment of health and safety risks to employees in their workplace, which falls under the remit of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations.
And this risk assessment should cover the specific needs of employees experiencing
the menopause. Essentially, the employer should ensure that the working environment will not worsen menopausal symptoms. Indeed, they are under a legal obligation to do this.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has some very useful templates which organisations can use for their risk assessments, and these can be tailored for specific circumstances relating to menopause. It’s important for the employer and employee to work through the risk assessment together.
Once the assessment has been carried out, there’s a duty on the employer to address the findings. They are required to take action to eliminate any identified hazard, and if that’s not possible, to control the risk.
A few dos and don’ts are useful for employers to bear in mind here.
- Provide an accessible and well-publicised policy or guidance document. It’s great for organisations to have these, but employees need to know they’re there in the first instance, and how to access them.
- Be mindful of the working environment and access to facilities. Of course, the working environment varies from business to business, and depends on the nature of the work. But things like ventilation, access to water and toilet facilities, and a quiet space for breaks can all support problematic menopause symptoms.
- Implement reasonable adjustments. These will depend on what support the individual is looking for, which in turn usually depends on what symptoms are bothering them. It’s important for employers to bear in mind that symptoms can change over time — and so the required support will also change. This is why we always recommend follow-up meetings, to reassess adjustments. It’s also worth pointing out that these adjustments are often only needed in the short term.
- Forget about or ignore the importance of Occupational Health. If it’s appropriate, employees can be referred to them for further guidance.
- Assume that menopause is something only women need to know about. Educating everyone in the workplace is vital, not just for raising awareness, but for creating the right culture for open, honest conversations about menopause.
These aren’t difficult requirements for employers to comply with, and the help is available from the HSE to support organisations.
Jog Hundle is a Partner at Mills & Reeve LLP.
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