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Rooney v Leicester City - this one is about menopause discrimination, not football

View profile for Gillian Markland
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Rooney v Leicester City - this one is about menopause discrimination, not football

Even though more and more women over 50 make up our workforce, there is still a lack of understanding as to how menopause affects an employee experiencing it.

The recent case of Rooney v Leicester City Council demonstrated how the effects of menopause could amount to a disability under the Equality Act 2010. Here the claimant was a social worker with severe symptoms including insomnia, fatigue and palpitations, which she had experienced for over 2 years.

Rooney was initially found by the employment tribunal not to be disabled for the purposes of s.6 of the Equality Act 2010, as they found that she did not satisfy the requirement for the condition to have a substantial, long term impact on her day-to-day activities.  However, the Employment Appeal Tribunal overturned this decision and commented that the initial tribunal had focussed on what the claimant was able to do rather than what she was unable to do.

Although the above case explores how the menopause can be considered in the context of disability, there is also scope for it to be considered in age and sex based discrimination under equality legislation.

To avoid such potential issues, when considering how to manage employees experiencing the menopause, appreciation should be given to the variety of ways an individual can be affected, and how personal the experience can be.

Acas reports that employees experiencing menopause feel that they lose confidence in their skills and abilities.  In addition, they report that employees feel compelled to hide the reasons for absences and in some cases feel that they have no choice but to resign due to the impact of their symptoms. These factors can then manifest themselves as issues for employers such as sickness absence, performance issues and employee retention.

Having an effective workplace policy in place in relation to the menopause can promote honesty and openness about an individual’s support needs, ultimately benefiting both parties.

For help and advice on creating your own policies and procedures, contact our employment team.

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