Menopausal women taking legal action against employers shouldn’t have to rely to disability discrimination legislation to do so, according to Caroline Nokes MP.
The chair of the Women and Equalities Committee told Benefits Expert that she believes a consultation is needed to at least explore the possibility of menopause becoming a protected characteristic.
Explaining that the drawbacks and benefits need to be properly understood, she said: “It is simply wrong that women are still being forced to use disability discrimination legislation to bring a tribunal case.
“A tribunal case in the first instance is a failure. It’s a failure of policy and it’s a failure of that employer. The stark reality is that menopause is many things, but it is not a disability.”
In January this year, the government refused to make menopause a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010 and rejected a large-scale pilot of menopause leave in England, both of which were met with widespread criticism.
Nokes insisted that menopause shouldn’t be dismissed because of fears over other minority groups claiming features such as height or having a particular hair colour should also be protected characteristics, stating that’s “dismissive and demeaning to women”.
She added: “We’re not going to let up on this because it’s crucially important that we have a proper consultation.
“Let’s look at all the legal ramifications of it, but I think it is simply wrong to write it off.”
Nokes, who is an advocate of workplace menopause champions, believes a lot of employers are still anxious to even start the conversation about it.
She said: “I think you have to have an open culture that empowers managers to be confident about having the conversation and training has to go into that, but it means that you have to have policies in place that your staff know are there, know will be implemented and feel brave enough to talk about.”