A parliamentary inquiry into the workplace treatment of women going through the menopause will examine if legislation goes far enough to address discrimination.
An invisible cohort: why are workplaces failing women going through the menopause? is being launched by the Commons cross-party women and equalities committee, and will draw up recommendations with a view to shaping policies to address gender equality, it has been announced.
Almost one million women in the UK have left jobs as a result of menopausal symptoms. With the issue mainly affecting those in their late 40s and early 50s, this leads to women eligible for senior management roles leaving work at the peak of their career, the committee said.
This leads to knock-on effects on workplace productivity, the gender pay gap and the gender pension gap.
Existing legislation protects people from discrimination based on sex, age and disability, but several calls have been made for further measures, including a workplace menopause policy.
The committee’s chair, Caroline Noakes, said: “Three in every five women are negatively affected at work as a result of the menopause. The repercussions of that are not merely individual. Excluding menopausal women from the workplace is detrimental to our economy, our society and our place on the world stage.
“Despite the fact that hundreds of thousands of women in the UK are currently going through the menopause – a process that can be both physically and mentally draining – it is ignored in legislation. It is time to uncover and address this huge issue, which has been left near-invisible for far too long.”
The inquiry is seeking written submissions by 17 September on several issues surrounding menopause.
These include the nature and the extent of discrimination faced by women experiencing the menopause and the impact on wider society; the economic impact of menopause discrimination and how businesses factor in the needs of employees affected; and how practices addressing workplace discrimination relating to menopause can be implemented.
It is also seeking submissions on how people who experience the menopause but do not identify as women can be best supported.
How well current legislation protects women from discrimination, whether current legislation should be amended and what further legislation is required to enable employers to put in place a workplace menopause policy will also be a focus.
The inquiry aims to examine how effective government action has been in addressing workplace discrimination related to the menopause, and what more the government can do, including how effectively the Government Equalities Office is working across government to embed a strategic approach to addressing the impact of menopause in the workplace.
The committee said it values diversity and seeks to ensure this where possible, and encourages members of underrepresented groups to submit written evidence.
“With the government currently developing its women’s health strategy, MPs on the cross-party committee will present their findings and recommendations with a view to shaping policies redressing gender equality,” it said.