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It is refreshing to see that the menopause is being talked about more widely in the media and that people are feeling more comfortable in sharing their experiences and the impact it has on their lives, and those around them, both at home and in the workplace. Davina McCall has been doing an amazing job of raising awareness and encouraging women to take control through better evidence-based information, support and all round openness.

At Debenhams Ottaway we see the impact of the menopause in many aspects of the legal work we do. Within family law, the menopause is often discussed with clients as it can have a significant impact on relationships between couples and within the family. And in our employment law team, we are well aware of the recent statistics showing that 42% of women consider leaving their job due to the menopause and 20% of women actually do. We want these figures to drop significantly.

In the article, family lawyer Helen Young and employment lawyer Louise Attrup explore what we should all be thinking about when it comes to the menopause. Even if it hasn’t impacted you directly, it’s important to understand the issues and make sure our friends, family and colleagues feel supported.

The impact of the menopause on family life  

A recent survey published in The Independent found that of the women surveyed, 65% said the menopause had impacted their marriage and two thirds said they did not think their spouse or partner properly grasped the physical, mental and emotional repercussions the menopause causes.

We are not here to talk about menopause symptoms, which can differ widely, but we can make sure that, particularly in the family and employment law environment, we are fully aware and able to talk about how these symptoms may lead a woman to question herself, her marriage/relationship and her working aspirations and goals.

The menopause can often coincide with divorce or separation or children leaving home and becoming more independent, which will also affect the family dynamics. So what can we all do to help those around us who might be going through the menopause?

  • Regret, sadness, anger and even guilt are all common themes amongst our clients going through divorce. Add the menopause to this and you have an intense mix.  Recognise and acknowledge the impact the menopause is having on you and your decisions and don’t hold back from talking to your lawyer about it.
  • Talk openly to friends, family and colleagues. Getting this message out there and removing the taboo is so important.
  • Partners may not fully understand the impact the menopause is having on their spouse so maintaining an open dialogue and finding progressive, evidence-based information which you can both access is important. The Menopause Doctor is a great for this.
  • For some, the menopause and coming out the other side of divorce opens up a new chapter. Look for positive stories from people who have also gone through divorce, such as The Divorce Social podcast.

Menopause in the workplace

What should I do if the menopause is impacting my day to day role?

Currently women who are discriminated against because of the effects of the menopause often need to shoe-horn their claims into a disability discrimination complaint. Symptoms can be significant enough to amount to a disability, including mental health problems such as anxiety and cognitive impairment, but there are calls for the menopause to be a protected characteristic in its own right, like pregnancy.

In the meantime, if you are experiencing difficulties at work due to menopausal symptoms, don’t suffer in silence. You should

  • ensure your employer is aware of the symptoms and how it is affecting you
  • consider requesting support to your work environment/ pattern – a formal flexible working request could be submitted if you cannot agree changes informally
  • keep a record of any incidents at work which cause you distress
  • if the problems continue and your employer is unwilling to engage, consider raising a formal grievance.

I own a business, what do I need to think about?

Recent statistics from the Menopause Experts Group reveal that the number of employment tribunals citing menopause has quadrupled since 2018.  Awareness of the difficulties faced by women who are going through menopause is climbing up the news, HR and legal agendas, so if you are a business owner it is worth

  • having a menopause policy in place and making sure it’s well publicised with your staff
  • providing mandatory training for all managers so they know how to support their colleagues who are going through the menopause
  • having a menopause mentor or support service; someone who has knowledge of menopause symptoms and could be available to speak to anyone who needs support.

If the menopause is having an impact on you at home or in the workplace and you would like to talk about the legal issues raised in this article, please contact family lawyer Helen Young or employment lawyer Louise Attrup

The contents of this article are intended for general information purposes only and shall not be deemed to be, or constitute legal advice. We cannot accept responsibility for any loss as a result of acts or omissions taken in respect of this article.