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Menopause Discrimination - Navigating the Fine Line Between Support and Offence

View profile for Beverley Smith
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I came across the news headline yesterday about the ‘employee gift bag’ given out by Avanti West Coast to its female employees of menopausal age.  It apparently contained things such as a jelly baby ‘in case you feel like biting someone’s head off’, a paper clip ‘to help you keep it all together’ and a pencil ‘to write down the things you might forget’, amongst others.

It was apparently the brainchild of an internal menopause support group, and whilst in some respects, at least Avanti were keen to do something to support staff going through the perimenopause and menopause, the gesture has caused offence.

Legal and Ethical Considerations

You could argue that those who have taken offence should see the funny side of this, however, for those who are battling the severe and, in some cases, debilitating symptoms of perimenopause and menopause, particularly when trying to hold down a job, it is not a laughing matter.

Whilst I doubt anyone would say that more awareness of the menopause in the workplace is a bad thing, there is a fine line between being more open about the menopause in the workplace and people thinking that this can then be the butt of someone’s joke. 

The subject of menopause has gone from being something of a taboo to the subject of open discussion across the sexes over the past few years, and this can only be a good thing in terms of employee relations.  However, gestures such as this need to be considered in order to ensure the right message is conveyed and to avoid potential discrimination linked to menopause.

Encouraging Supportive Workplace Practices

Menopause discrimination covers age, sex, disability (whilst menopause is not in itself a disability, its symptoms can be) and potentially gender reassignment, and therefore employers should treat all staff experiencing menopause symptoms in the same way.

I would therefore encourage all employers to support their staff, but by focusing on things such as having a specific menopause policy in place, educating staff and training managers to deal with menopause including the issues of sickness and performance potentially impacted by menopause, making any health & safety and/or reasonable adjustments for menopause such as being more flexible in terms of working hours, access to open windows for more ventilation, amendments to uniform policies etc. and generally encouraging more discussion about menopause in the workplace.

Support for Employers

If you would like any more information regarding menopause policy, making reasonable workplace adjustments or any other matter relating to employment law, please don’t hesitate to get in touch. Contact Beverley Smith at, or give us a call on 0845 55 55 321 to speak to any of our experienced Employment Law solicitors.