The government has responded to the Women and Equalities Committee’s Menopause and the workplace report. As health is a devolved matter, the response outlines the government’s approach and actions in England only.
A new protected characteristic of menopause
The government rejected the recommendation to launch a consultation on making menopause a protected characteristic.
While the government agrees that it is important that women who suffer substantial and longer-term menopausal effects should be adequately protected from discrimination in the workplace, it is not satisfied that the evidence fully supports introducing new legislation. It points to three large stakeholders (Unison, Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development and Business in the Community) who agreed (for different reasons) that introducing new legislation isn't necessary.
Appointing a Menopause Ambassador
The government accepted this recommendation. 'In due course', a Menopause Employment Champion will be appointed to report to Department for Work and Pensions ministers at regular intervals. They will focus on matters specifically affecting employers to ensure they are engaged and supported.
Model menopause policies
The government rejected this recommendation because it does 'not believe that a model menopause policy is necessary at this moment'. However, it supports educating and informing employers and work colleagues about potential menopause symptoms, and how they can support women at work. It will launch a communications campaign, but it has not said when.
Menopause leave policy
The government rejected this recommendation because it 'does not believe that introducing or piloting a specific policy for menopause leave is necessary'. It wants to support menopausal women to remain in the workplace and it is concerned that specific menopause leave may be counterproductive to achieving the goal of keeping women at work.
Making the right to request flexible working a day one right
The government has accepted this recommendation and notes that promoting flexible working is a manifesto commitment. The Bill is going through parliament but there is no timeframe on when it will take effect.
Publication of HSE and EHRC guidance on supporting employees experiencing menopause
The government has accepted this recommendation in part. It states that it is developing strengthened guidance that will provide a set of clear and simple principles that employers would be expected to apply, to support disabled people and those with long-term health conditions in the work environment.
In its report, the Committee also recommended the government commence Section 14 of the Equality Act, which relates to ‘dual discrimination’. This section has been part of the Equality Act since its enactment but is currently ‘inactive’. The government rejected the recommendation and stated it would not legislate to commence Section 14.
Dual discrimination is discrimination against those who have two protected characteristics, rather than just one.
Among other things, it states that the introduction of dual characteristics cannot be done in a piecemeal way under the Section 14 regime. It cannot cherry-pick the implementation of a specific dual characteristic, age and sex. As a result, commencing the combined discrimination provision would create 20 more dual-protected characteristics in addition to sex and age.
The government also notes the 'significant additional burden' that the commencement of Section 14 would place on employers and service providers.