Menopause Case Study

Menopause Case Study

Menopause Case Study

Recent research into the effect of menopause in the workplace found that:

  • Over 90% of respondents felt that their menopausal or perimenopausal symptoms were having a negative impact on their work
  • More than 50% of respondents stated that this had resulted in their performance deteriorating, and 9% of those women received a disciplinary sanction for that
  • 50% of respondents took time off work due to menopausal or perimenopausal symptoms with 19% being absent for 8 weeks or longer
  • 52% of those absent from work due to menopausal symptoms actually stated anxiety or stress as the cause to their employer (only 7% stating menopause as a reason for sickness absence)
  • 31% of respondents had considered reducing their working hours as a result of menopausal and perimenopausal symptoms
  • 32% of respondents considered resigning from their job as a result of menopausal and perimenopausal symptoms
  • Over 75% of respondents stated that their workplace offered no information or support regarding the menopause

The research report indicates it is very likely statistically that a large proportion of your workforce suffer from menopausal symptoms without making the company aware of that, and without any clear information or framework to support these colleagues in place, a third of those employees will leave the company

If your company has no specific policy or procedure to support menopausal colleagues then you are exposed to the risks from costly tribunal claims for discrimination and unfair dismissal

The Case

A court officer with an unblemished employment record across 20 years’ service experienced menopausal symptoms included very heavy bleeding (resulting in anaemia), feeling “fuzzy”, and reduced concentration

The employee informed her line manager and adjustments were agreed, including the authorisation for her to leave the courtroom regularly when bleeding heavily to attend to that

The employee was also prescribed a medication for cystitis, which needs to be diluted in water during the course of the day. When the employee left the courtroom on one occasion for a few minutes, she returned and noticed that the jug of water on her desk had been drunk and her pencil case containing sanitary products had been moved. She saw two men who were involved in the court case drinking her water and warned them that her medication was dissolved in it. One of the men became verbally abusive and the employee raised her voice in response

After investigating the incident her employer concluded that the medicine had not been added to the water (as the water would have turned a noticeable pink colour) and suggested that the employee would have known that at the time and so was acting maliciously in informing the men that they had unknowingly drunk tainted water 

The employer alleged that the employee had brought the court into disrepute and invited the employee to a disciplinary hearing for gross misconduct. At the disciplinary hearing, the employee stated that she genuinely had not realised her mistake as her condition made her confused and forgetful, so she could not remember if she had dissolved the medication or not

Despite her long service, the employee was dismissed for gross misconduct for misleading both the men who drank the water and the employer. The employee made claims of unfair dismissal and disability discrimination at an employment tribunal 

The Tribunal Decision

The tribunal found that the employee was unfairly dismissed and reinstated to her job with back pay and injury to feelings compensation. The Tribunal decided that the decision to dismiss the employee was not within the band of reasonable responses as the investigation was not balanced because it ignored the employee’s explanation and the medical information regarding her menopausal symptoms

The menopausal symptoms also affected her ability to carry out normal day to day activities, and performance at work, as the symptoms involved anxiety, short term memory loss and confusion. The employee’s conduct was clearly affected by her disability as the menopause caused her to be confused and forgetful about whether she had taken the medication and whether she had put it in the water jug. The Tribunal found that there was a clear link between her disability and her conduct, as such there was a successful claim for disability discrimination

The Tribunal awarded over £14,000 for loss of earnings plus £5,000 for injury to feelings, and ordered that she be reinstated to her previous position

Case Summary

This case highlights the benefit of having a comprehensive Menopause policy & procedure for both the company and employees. Over 600 employers have signed up to the ‘Menopause Workplace Pledge’ to date, a campaign by the charity Wellbeing of Women to provide practical support for menopausal employees (some of the companies already supporting this campaign are the BBC, Astra-Zeneca, Co-op and TSB)

Having a policy of talking openly about menopause and helping to break down the taboo that can surround this issue is not only beneficial in protecting the company against costly tribunal claims but equally will create an environment where women feel able to seek help and support to remain in work throughout menopause

Implement your comprehensive menopause policy with our Menopause HR Pack

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