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‘Out-dated and ill-informed bosses’ blamed for huge increase in employment tribunals citing menopause

Employment tribunals involving menopause have quadrupled in the last three years, according to analysis of court records by Menopause Experts Group.

There have been 43 employment tribunals referencing menopause since April 2017. There were six cases in the last nine months of 2017, compared with ten in the first six months of 2021, which would be equivalent to 20 over the course of a full year if the rate continued. 

‘Menopause’ was mentioned eight times in tribunal rulings in 2017, but has already featured 116 times in the first six months of 2021. If this rate were to continue, there would be 232 mentions over the full year.

One employment tribunal heard how recruitment worker Aggie Kownacka was told by her boss it was “no big deal” that she would be forced into menopause at the age of 37 and no longer able to conceive children.

Another tribunal in Birmingham ruled that a claimant who suffered up to 12 hot flushes a day and was awakened by night sweats up to eight times nightly was disabled by reason of the menopause.

But the opinion of tribunals is not clear cut when it comes to menopause being a disability, with the judge in Ms M Rooney v Leicester City Council dismissing her claim.

Table: Employment tribunal citing menopause and total ‘menopause’ mentions

YearCases citing menopauseCases (full year equivalent)Menopause mentionsMenopause mentions (full year equivalent)
2017 (from April)66.588.7
2018557171
2019665757
20201616118118
2021 (until end of June)1020116232

Source: HM Courts & Tribunals Service

A quarter of the 43 employment tribunals took place in London, with six in Glasgow, four in Birmingham and two each in Manchester, Cardiff, Dundee and Leicester.

Menopause Experts Group is calling on employers to offer their employees training about the symptoms, signs and side-effects of the menopause.

Dee Murray (pictured), founder and CEO at Menopause Experts Group, said: “We regularly hear horror stories about how women are discriminated against in the workforce, and sadly menopause is one area where employers keep getting it wrong.

“This dramatic rise in the number of employment tribunals citing menopause shows how women are standing up for themselves against out-dated and ill-informed bosses. The lack of education is dangerous for women’s health and unfair to their careers.

“What’s frustrating is the fact that there are so many training courses available to employers. Teaching our colleagues about menopause is vital if we are going to remove the stigma surrounding what is a big part of a woman’s life.”

Adam Pavey, employment lawyer and non-executive director at Menopause Experts Group, said: “This data shows there has been a significant increase in menopause-related employment issues, and it is concerning how many employees feel they have faced discrimination this way.

“Improved education and information means that women feel better informed and more empowered to raise concerns about menopause-related discrimination, but the law in this area is too far behind the reality. 

“The lack of consistency from tribunals as to whether menopause is an issue of disability or sex discrimination is cause for concern. 

“Employers and employees need clarity so this can be tackled proactively, and the law needs to catch up. 

“We urgently need decisions from the appeal courts as this lack of clarity will continue until we see some real guidance in this area.”

Menopause Experts Group offers comprehensive, trustworthy and up-to-date information to help women understand and manage often debilitating symptoms like forgetfulness, hot flushes, headaches, itchy skin, night sweats, brain fog and low or non-existent sex drive.

Training has been provided to companies including the Metropolitan Police, Finastra and Macfarlanes. The training is completely free, making vital information available to all people whatever their ability to pay. 

Diane Cooke
Diane Cooke is a three times award-winning journalist who has worked for UK national/regional newspapers, magazines and websites.

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