Thu 27 May 2021

Menopausal symptoms found to be disability

An employment tribunal has found that the symptoms meet the statutory definition of disability.

In 2018 the Glasgow employment tribunal found an employee had been unfairly dismissed and discriminated against for a reason arising in consequence of her disability.  In that case the disability in question was the claimant's menopausal symptoms.  However, the tribunal had not had to consider whether the menopausal symptoms amounted to a disability in that case as the issue had been conceded by the respondent prior to the hearing.  However, in Daley v Optiva it fell to the tribunal to consider whether the symptoms amounted to a disability in law.

The claimant was 51 years of age and had been experiencing menopausal symptoms.  She struggled to carry shopping bags, could not drive for long periods, was unable to socialise - previously a significant part of her normal day to day activities - she was fatigued, and had problems with memory and concentration.  Although she also had an underactive thyroid, she mainly attributed her difficulties to the menopausal symptoms. 

The tribunal found that the claimant was disabled in respect of her menopausal symptoms and/or her underactive thyroid.  The condition was long-term and was having a substantial adverse impact on her normal day to day activities. 

With employment growth over the last decade being driven by women of 50 years and over there will be few organisations of any size that do not employ women of menopausal age.  This is an issue which employers need to be cognisant of and, in light of recent tribunal decisions, be prepared to make reasonable adjustments to working arrangements.  Putting in place a menopause policy may make women feel more able to open up a discussion with their employers about how they are feeling, and managers should be trained to deal with concerns sensitively.  ACAS have guidance for employers to help manage the impact of menopause at work and the CIPD also have a suite of helpful documents.

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