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The Government has rejected many of the work-related menopause recommendations made by the Women and Equalities Committee.
The Government response to the Women and Equalities Committee report on menopause and the workplace is a “missed opportunity to protect vast numbers of talented and experienced women from leaving the workforce”, says the chair of the Committee.
The response rejects five of the Committee’s 12 recommendations outright, including a recommendation to consult on making menopause a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010 and a call for it to pilot a specific menopause leave policy.
In a letter to Health Minister Maria Caulfield, the Chair of the Committee Caroline Nokes expressed concern that the Government has “ignored the significant evidence base” for equality law reform and called on the Government to review its position. The Committee also highlights the low cost but high impact opportunities for model workplace menopause policies and menopause leave, which the Government has dismissed.
In the letter, the Committee highlighted it was “extremely disappointing that the Menopause Taskforce has not met since prior to the summer recess, and that the industry roundtable on HRT supplies has been delayed a number of times.”
The Committee’s report, published in July 2022, argued that the overlooked impact of menopause is causing the UK economy to ‘haemorrhage talent’. It also argued that the current law does not sufficiently protect women experiencing menopause and does not offer proper redress to those who suffer menopause-related discrimination, with evidence that many women have to demonstrate their menopausal symptoms amount to a disability to get redress.
Although the Government said it has accepted, partly accepted or accepted in principle six of the recommendations, it comes under criticism from the Committee for not actually committing to any new work in response to the report.
Nokes said: “This belated response to our report is 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.
“For too long women have faced stigma, shame and dismissive attitudes when it comes to menopause. The evidence to our inquiry was crystal clear that urgent action was needed across healthcare and work settings to properly address women’s needs, yet Government progress has been glacial and its response complacent.
“Its refusal to even consult on reforming equalities law doesn’t make sense and we urge it to look again.”
When it comes to work-related recommendations, the report rejects the recommendation to create model menopause policies, saying it does not believe this is necessary at the moment. It states that there is a lot of work under way, for example, by the NHS and civil service on menopause policies and by other bodies and employers. It prefers to highlight best practice which employers can adapt to their own circumstances and says there is no one-size-fits-all approach to menopause. The champion will highlight best practice, it says, and will launch an employer-led communications campaign and the women’s health ambassador will also work with the champion to tackle taboos in the workplace.
Rejecting the Committee’s recommendation to work with a major public sector employer to develop menopause leave policy and evaluate it, the Government says menopause leave may not help its aims of promoting best practice in addressing the menopause and other forms of support such as flexible working. It says “specific menopause leave may be counterproductive”.
It also rejects the call for legal claims based on dual characteristics of age and sexism, saying it is worried about creating new areas for legal dispute. And it rejects a recommendation for new legislation on menopause discrimination, saying discrimination can be dealt with in other ways, for example, by expanding the reasonable adjustments section of disability legislation. It also says that specific menopause legislation could be discriminatory towards men.
The recommendations which the Government partly accepts are: