Schools, Menopause and the Law

You may have heard that the government have decided not to make menopause a protected characteristic in its own right. While this has been disappointing for many, it does not mean that staff struggling with the menopausal transition are not protected.

The government’s response was that menopause did not need to be protected in its own right because it falls under the already protected characteristics of age and sex.

So the logic there would suggest that menopause is indeed protected, just not as its own category.

And while menopause is not considered a disability it’s already acknowledged that the symptoms of menopause can be disabling. So disability law comes into play here too.

The two pieces of legislation that apply here are The Health and Safety at Work act (1974, amended 1998) which requires that employers do generalised risk assessments and The Equality Act (2010) prohibits discrimination on the grounds of sex, age and disability.

It’s useful to carry out a generalised risk assessment to think through how menopausal staff might be affected by menopause and perimenopause and how you might help safeguard their health and wellbeing. I would also recommend that you carry out individual risk assessments for staff who tell you they are struggling.

Of course that assumes that they will tell you, which is often another story. That requires creating a culture in your school where people know they can come to you.

While there have not yet been any employment tribunals involving menopause in the education sector there have been in other sectors. Some have been resolved in favour of the employee, others have not.

But I think it fair to say that once it’s got to that stage everyone has lost.

Which is why you need a menopause policy. And why you need a school culture with an open and accepting attitude towards menopause. I can help you with both those things!

Disclaimer: I’m not a lawyer — but I do listen to what lawyers have to say, and you might also want to!