A push to develop a dedicated menopause leave policy and classify menopause as a protected workplace characteristic has been rejected by the UK Government this week. The Government was responding to recommendations put forward by the Women and Equalities Committee, which is made up of 11 members of the UK’s Lower House of Parliament.
The Women and Equalities Committee works to hold the UK Government accountable for equality law and policy. In July last year, the Committee released a report with recommendations to address discrimination against people experiencing menopause in the workplace. Menopause refers to the end of a woman’s menstrual cycle. Symptoms can include hot flushes and sleep disturbances, which in some cases can cause anxiety or depression.
On Tuesday, the Government responded by rejecting five of the 12 recommendations. This included rejecting a push to create a pilot menopause leave policy with an employer in the public sector. The Government said it believed menopause leave could be “counterproductive” to keeping people in the workforce, and encouraged workplaces to implement their own menopause support strategies. A push to consider introducing a duty on employers to provide “reasonable adjustments” for menopausal employees was also rejected. The Women and Equalities Committee Chair Caroline Nokes – who is also a member of the governing Conservative Party – called the Government’s response a “missed opportunity” and said it left her “unconvinced that menopause is a Government priority”.
Nokes has sent a letter to the UK Health Minister calling on the Government to review its position on some of the recommendations. Recommendations that were accepted by the Government will be progressed. This includes introducing legislation to ensure employees have a right to a flexible working schedule from their first day, and launching a public health campaign centred around menopause.