The cross-party women and equalities committee in a report published on Thursday (28) urged the government to introduce menopause as a protected characteristic by amending the Equality Act.
It also wanted to include a duty for employers to provide reasonable adjustments for menopausal employees as lack of support for symptoms is pushing ‘highly skilled and experienced’ women out of work, with knock-on effects on the gender pay gap, pension gap and the number of women in senior leadership positions.
The MPs also asked to remove dual prescription charges for oestrogen and progesterone as part of Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT), by replacing it with a single charge for all women.
According to the report, women with at least one problematic menopausal symptom are 43 per cent more likely to have left their jobs by the age of 55 than those experiencing no severe symptoms. Additionally, a research by BUPA revealed that 900,000 women experiencing the menopause have left work.
In a survey of over 2000 women commissioned by the Committee, 67 per cent reported ‘a loss of confidence’ as a result of menopausal symptoms and 70 per cent reported ‘increased stress’.
However, only 12 per cent of pondents sought any workplace adjustments, with 1 in 4 citing their worries about an employers’ reaction as their reason for not doing so.
The current law ‘does not serve or protect’ menopausal women as witnesses told the Committee that discrimination in the workplace is ‘widespread’ and ‘shocking’. Besides, many women feel their GP is not well-equipped to properly diagnose or treat menopause.
“We were shocked to hear that many women have to demonstrate their menopausal symptoms amount to a disability, to get redress. Our Committee is calling on the Government to make menopause a protected characteristic in its own right,” said Caroline Nokes MP, chair of the Committee.
“We must facilitate a healthcare system which recognises and treats menopause symptoms. Too many women are dismissed when coming forward with symptoms and too many women are unable to access the care and medication they need. It is easily within the Government’s power to remove the financial and regional barriers to doing so. The inclusion of menopause as a priority area in the newly published Women’s Health Strategy is very welcome.
“Menopausal women have been mocked and maligned for too long. It is time that the government seizes the opportunity to enact change. It is time to support, and celebrate, these women.”