Menopause in the Workplace: A Multi-Faceted Issue

Menopause is something that approximately 50 percent of the workforce will experience during their working lives, but it is still infrequently discussed or considered in the workplace and many of us are unaware of how menopause can affect those going through it. However, employers are seeing an increase in employees concerned about menopause and their experience with it at work. This is a multi-faceted issue that encompasses a range of potential employment law issues.


Most countries do not recognise menopause as a characteristic that is specifically protected by discrimination laws. But employees experiencing menopause may be protected by discrimination laws relating to age, sex, disability and gender reassignment. Generally, people experiencing menopause are women aged between 45 and 55 so any unfavourable treatment (whether direct or indirect) towards an employee experiencing menopause could amount to sex and/or age discrimination. Gender reassignment discrimination may also be relevant if the employee experiencing menopause is transgender.

Menopause can bring with it a multitude of symptoms that affect people differently. For some employees, the impact these symptoms may have on their lives means that menopause can be capable of amounting to a disability in many countries. What constitutes a disability will vary between jurisdictions but is generally held to be a condition that has a substantial and long-term adverse impact on the individual. Where an employee is experiencing menopause such that it amounts to a disability, they will benefit from protection under disability discrimination laws, and the employer may also need to consider if any accommodations need to be made for the employee in light of their disability.


Unwanted conduct in the workplace (for example, ‘joking’ between colleagues in the workplace about menopause) involving an employee’s menopause or menopause symptoms may amount to harassment or sexual harassment. Likewise, victimisation may occur if an employee who has asserted their rights under discrimination laws is treated less favourably because of their complaint(s).

Health and Safety

In many jurisdictions, employers are under a duty of care to ensure the health and safety of their employees whilst in the workplace. This is likely to extend to employees experiencing menopause and associated symptoms so employers should consider the mental and physical impact of the work environment on employees experiencing menopause and whether any adjustments are necessary.

Practical Steps Employers can Take to Support Employees Experiencing Menopause

Menopause is experienced differently by each person and can cause a range of symptoms. Additionally, it is often a sensitive and private issue for those experiencing or who have experienced it. As such, employers should always consider employees’ privacy. That being said, however, employers should seek to foster a workplace culture that allows for conversations about menopause. Open conversation is key to understanding how to support employees who are experiencing menopause.

Menopause is an area about which many are unfamiliar or unaware, particularly those who have not experienced it. As such, employers should consider whether some workplace training would be appropriate, perhaps for HR professionals and managers, to gain a greater awareness about some of the challenges and symptoms that people experiencing menopause may have and how employers can assist in accommodating them.

Employers should also consider implementing a menopause policy. A menopause policy could cover a range of topics, including setting out the employer’s expectations as to how employees experiencing menopause should be treated, allowing people who are experiencing significant menopause symptoms a certain amount of paid time off, etc. Additionally, employers should consider how some existing policies may inadvertently adversely affect those experiencing menopause. For example, inflexible requirements for in-office working may be more difficult for some experiencing menopause (and could even amount to indirect discrimination in some jurisdictions), with many employees reporting they find working from home helpful in coping with menopause symptoms.

Where employers are made aware that employees are experiencing menopause, they can consider workplace adjustments to assist the employee. For example, this might entail altering the workplace temperature or moving the affected employee to a cooler part of the office. It may also include adjustments such as amended start and end times or allowing an employee to work from home.

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