‘Menopause leave’ will not go ahead in England after fears it may discriminate against men

The proposal for dedicated menopause leave was rejected by the government on the grounds it may be “counterproductive” and discriminate against men.

Health ministers have rejected a proposal from MPs to introduce ‘menopause leave’ pilots across England, arguing it could be “counterproductive” and discriminate against men in the workplace.

According to the British Menopause Society survey, 45% of women indicated they felt their menopause symptoms had a negative impact on their work. In November, the NHS announced that it would be offering flexible working arrangements to menopausal workers, which include providing uniforms made out of suitable, breathable fabrics and giving employees the ability to control the temperature of the space they’re working in, while City Hall has also implemented similar policies.

However, the government has stopped short of trialling dedicated ‘menopause leave’, adding that it is “concerned that specific menopause leave may be counterproductive”. It also dismissed a recommendation to make menopause a protected characteristic under the Equality Act, meaning that it cannot be discriminated against in the workplace.

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Ministers expressed concerns that such a move could have “unintended consequences which may inadvertently create new forms of discrimination, for example, discrimination risks towards men suffering from from long term medical conditions or eroding existing protections”.

Instead, it insisted it had an “ambitious” plan to improve help, focusing on encouraging employers to implement workplace menopause policies. 

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Last year,the women and equalities committee published a report which warned that the impact of menopause was causing the UK economy to “haemorrhage talent”. It said a lack of support was pushing women out of work and made 12 recommendations intended to give working women more rights.

Following the rejection, the Conservative chair of the women and equalities committee, Caroline Nokes, condemned the government’s response as “a missed opportunity to protect vast numbers of talented and experienced women from leaving the workforce” that left her“unconvinced that menopause is a government priority”.

“For too long women have faced stigma, shame and dismissive attitudes when it comes to menopause,” said Nokes. “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.”

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A government spokesperson rejected accusations of complacency arguing it had “put women’s health at the top of the agenda as part of the first-ever women’s health strategy for England”.

“We are implementing an ambitious programme of work with the NHS to improve menopause care so all women can access the support they need,” they added.

Images: Getty

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