MP Caroline Nokes, chair of the Women and Equalities Committee, who is leading an inquiry into menopause discrimination, says changing equality law to offer greater workplace protections for people experiencing menopause should not be ruled out.
She reveals that the inquiry has heard from women who have had to seek disability claims against their employers after experiencing discrimination in the workplace due to going through menopause.
Despite not being a disability, menopause discrimination is covered under three protected characteristics, one being disability, the other two being age and sex. However menopause is not a protected characteristic itself, under the Equality Act 2010.
Last month the committee launched the inquiry to see whether the equality act needed updating and strengthening. This step was to ensure women have security within the workplace and menopause becomes a protected characteristic.
Additionally, the aim is that women who experience menopause-related discrimination can access more suitable compensation and employment tribunals.
Nokes said: “One of the key messages coming through is that people don’t feel that they’ve got adequate recourse to tribunals because they think the legislation isn’t clear enough.
“We are hearing too many stories of people finding the most convenient mechanism to bring a claim for disability discrimination – the menopause isn’t a disability.
“If the current legislation is working, then great. But if it’s not working, and we’ve made maternity a protected characteristic, then do we need to look at making menopause a protected characteristic? The jury’s still very much still out on that [but] I really don’t rule it out.”
Recent research revealed that 33 per cent of women hide their menopause symptoms from employers, and 43 per cent were too embarrassed to ask for support.
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