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February 6, 2023

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No menopause leave is a missed opportunity – ministers have said

The failure to allow women menopause leave and make menopause a protected characteristic is a missed opportunity, according to those calling for change.

The Women and Equalities Committee has said it is ‘disappointed’ and it ’doesn’t make sense’ that the government outright rejected five proposals and failed to commit to further recommendations.

The government recently responded to the committee’s report, published in July 2022, which warned the impact of menopause was causing the UK economy to “haemorrhage talent”.

Credit: Alamy Stock

Though the Government said it has accepted, partly accepted or accepted in principle six of the recommendations, it comes under criticism from the Committee for not actually committing to any new work in response to the report.

Chair of the Women and Equalities Committee, Caroline Nokes MP, said: “This belated response to our report is a missed opportunity to protect vast numbers of talented and experienced women from leaving the workforce, and leaves me unconvinced that menopause is a Government priority.

“For too long women have faced stigma, shame and dismissive attitudes when it comes to menopause.

“The evidence to our inquiry was crystal clear that urgent action was needed across healthcare and work settings to properly address women’s needs, yet Government progress has been glacial and its response complacent.

“Its refusal to even consult on reforming equalities law doesn’t make sense and we urge it to look again.”

In its report, the cross-party group of MPs said a lack of support was pushing women out of work, they believed menopause should be named a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010 and a menopause leave policy should be piloted.

But the government said it was focused on encouraging employers to implement workplace menopause policies and specific menopause leave could be “counterproductive”.

It also said it would not launch a consultation on amending the Equality Act to introduce a new protected characteristic of menopause as such a move could have “unintended consequences which may inadvertently create new forms of discrimination, for example, discrimination risks towards men suffering from from long term medical conditions or eroding existing protections”.

Ministers accepted “in principle” the committee’s recommendations to launch a public health campaign around menopause and to appoint a menopause ambassador to monitor progress made by businesses in this area.

In a letter to Health Minister Maria Caulfield, Caroline Nokes expressed concern that the Government has “ignored the significant evidence base” for equality law reform and called on the Government to review its position.

In the letter, the Committee highlighted it was “extremely disappointing that the Menopause Taskforce has not met since prior to the summer recess, and that the industry roundtable on HRT supplies has been delayed a number of times”.

It also argued that the current law does not sufficiently protect women experiencing menopause and does not offer proper redress to those who suffer menopause related discrimination, with evidence that many women have to demonstrate their menopausal symptoms amount to a disability to get redress.

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