The British government has rejected calls for women to trial a ‘menopause leave’ in England to help alleviate their symptoms in the workplace, arguing it could be “counterproductive”. The calls for the pilot trial came after the Women and Equalities Committee accused ministers of making "glacial progress" on menopause support.
Last year, the committee published a report which warned that the impact of menopause was causing the UK economy to "haemorrhage talent". It said a lack of support for women going through the menopause in the workplace was pushing women out of employment. The Committee also made 12 suggestions aimed at giving working women more rights.
However, yesterday (January 24) government ministers rejected the plans, alongside dismissing the recommendation to make menopause a protected characteristic under the Equality Act. The government instead said it was focused on encouraging employers to implement workplace menopause policies, adding: "We are concerned that specific menopause leave may be counterproductive to achieving this goal."
It also said it would not launch a consultation on amending the Equality Act to introduce a new protected characteristic of menopause "including a duty to provide reasonable adjustments for menopausal employees". And also said it would not be taking up the suggestion of making menopause training mandatory in the workplace.
The government expressed concern that a “menopause leave” pilot could cause "unintended consequences which may inadvertently create new forms of discrimination, for example, discrimination risks towards men suffering from long-term medical conditions or eroding existing protections."
Ministers accepted "in principle" the committee’s recommendations to launch a public health campaign around menopause and to appoint a menopause ambassador to monitor progress made by businesses in this area. It also said it would look at reducing the cost of Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) which menopausal women use to relieve symptoms.
However, the Conservative chair of the committee Caroline Nokes condemned the government’s overall response as "a missed opportunity to protect vast numbers of talented and experienced women from leaving the workforce and leaves me unconvinced that menopause is a government priority.”