An important reminder for employers on World Menopause Day
As we celebrate World Menopause Day today, the recent Employment Tribunal (ET) decision in Mrs M Lynskey v Direct Line Insurance Services Ltd highlights the need for employers to take a careful approach to their handling of menopause management to minimise the risks of potential associated claims.
Mrs Lynskey worked for her employer from 2016 until resigning in 2022. During the first four years of her employment, she received consistently high ratings in her annual performance reviews. However, at the start of 2020 she began to experience menopause-related symptoms and sought treatment from her GP. She shared her symptoms and associated medical treatment with her manager and highlighted they were negatively affecting her performance at work.
Mrs Lynskey was subsequently offered a different role in the company on the grounds it would be a better fit. Despite this, her manager began to develop concerns about her conduct and graded her as in ‘need of improvement’ in her annual performance review. Mrs Lynskey’s employer eventually commenced formal performance management proceedings against her in 2021, notably without taking account of her menopausal symptoms. She was issued with a written warning but then was declared unfit for work due to stress at home and put on the company’s sick pay. However, after two months of receiving sick pay, she was informed she would no longer receive it due to an unsustainable level of absences.
Mrs Lynskey remained unwell and eventually resigned in 2022 after raising a grievance and issuing various claims in the ET. Whilst not all her claims were successful, the ET held that her low review rating, receipt of a written warning and the cessation of company sick pay all constituted less favourable treatment because of the symptoms she had experienced as a result of a disability. Whilst menopause itself is not a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010, in this particular case the symptoms Mrs Lynskey experienced had such a significant impact on her day-to-day activities it was agreed they amounted to a disability. As such, the ET also held that her employer had failed to make reasonable adjustments. She was awarded nearly £65,000 in compensation.
This decision comes at a topical time, with issues surrounding menopause management in the workplace increasingly at the forefront of public discussion and the subject of ET claims. This is shown by the ongoing case of Maria Rooney, which was the first case to go to the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) on this matter where it established that menopausal symptoms can amount to a disability. It is currently being heard at a Final Hearing in the ET, having been remitted there by the EAT.
Recent research also highlights that the UK has an ageing workforce, with increasing numbers of women over the age of 50 choosing to remain in the workplace. Statistics produced by the UK Government show that the average age women are exiting the labour market has increased from 60 in 1986, to 64 in 2023.
This puts a growing expectation on employers to ensure they are taking sufficient measures to support staff who may be experiencing menopausal symptoms. Failure to be pro-active and take action may lead to not only reputational and workplace culture issues, but also a potential loss of talent.
Some of the measures employers can consider taking include:
- Providing additional training for managers,
- Raising awareness of and de-stigmatising menopause,
- Fostering a supportive and open culture to enable workers to raise concerns,
- Considering implementing a menopause policy,
- Evaluating appropriate environmental adjustments if necessary, and
- Seeking appropriate occupational health and legal advice without delay.
Further information on this topic and the steps employers can take can also be found here:
- Menopause in the Workplace (charlesrussellspeechlys.com)
- What support should employers provide for menopause in the workplace? (charlesrussellspeechlys.com)
If you would like advice on any of the issues outlined above, please contact a member of our employment law team.
Direct Line has been ordered to pay a former employee almost £65,000 after it failed to make reasonable adjustments when her role was affected by menopause symptoms.