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Emma Thompson’s Call for Menopause as a Protected Characteristic in the Equality Act

December 28, 2023

Acclaimed actress Emma Thompson has recently brought to light an important issue affecting women in the workplace: menopause discrimination. Her call for menopause to be recognized as a protected characteristic under the Equality Act is a significant step towards acknowledging and addressing the challenges faced by menopausal women. But what does this mean exactly?

Understanding Menopause

Menopause typically occurs in women in their late 40s to early 50s, with the average age in the United States being 51. It marks the end of menstrual cycles and is diagnosed after 12 months without a period. Menopause can bring various symptoms, including hot flashes, night sweats, mood swings, sleep disturbances, and changes in sexual function. These symptoms result from the body's adjustment to decreasing levels of estrogen and progesterone.

Menopause Discrimination in the Workplace

Menopause discrimination in the workplace is a multifaceted issue that can significantly impact the professional lives of women. This form of discrimination arises not only from a lack of awareness but also from deeply ingrained societal and workplace biases.

Forms of Menopause Discrimination

  1. Stereotyping and Misconceptions: One of the primary forms of discrimination comes from age-related stereotypes. There's a misconception that menopausal women are less capable, less reliable, or more emotional. These stereotypes can lead to a devaluation of their contributions and skills.
  2. Impact on Work Performance Perceptions: Menopausal symptoms like hot flashes, sleep disturbances, and concentration difficulties can be misconstrued as a lack of commitment or professionalism. Instead of understanding and support, women might face skepticism or criticism about their work ethic or capabilities.
  3. Inadequate Workplace Policies: Many workplaces lack policies or resources to support women going through menopause. This absence can manifest as a lack of flexible working arrangements, insufficient health benefits covering menopause-related treatments, or a dearth of educational resources for both employees and employers.
  4. Career Advancement Barriers: Menopause discrimination can create significant barriers to career advancement. Women may be passed over for promotions or significant projects due to misconceptions about their abilities during this phase of life. This not only affects their career trajectory but also contributes to a broader gender gap in leadership roles.
  5. Hostile Work Environment: In some cases, menopause discrimination can contribute to a hostile work environment. Jokes, derogatory comments, or insensitivity towards menopausal symptoms can create an atmosphere of discomfort and exclusion.

Consequences of Menopause Discrimination

  1. Mental Health Impact: The stress of facing discrimination, coupled with the challenges of menopause, can take a toll on mental health. Women may experience increased levels of anxiety, depression, and a decrease in self-esteem.
  2. Physical Health Exacerbation: The stress from discrimination can exacerbate menopausal symptoms, leading to a vicious cycle of worsening health and increased discrimination.
  3. Economic Consequences: Discrimination can lead to job loss or reduced work hours, impacting the economic stability and financial independence of menopausal women.
  4. Reduced Workplace Diversity: When experienced professionals are marginalized due to menopause, the workplace loses out on diversity of thought and experience. This loss can affect innovation, decision-making, and the overall culture of the organization.

The Equality Act and Its Current Protections

The Equality Act is a piece of legislation that aims to protect individuals from discrimination based on various characteristics, including age, gender, race, and disability. It ensures equal treatment in the workplace and wider society. However, menopause is not currently recognized as a protected characteristic under this act.

Benefits of Including Menopause as a Protected Characteristic

Recognizing menopause as a protected characteristic could have several benefits for women in the workplace. It would raise awareness of the challenges faced by menopausal women and encourage employers to create supportive environments. This could include flexible working arrangements, access to health resources, and training for management to better understand and accommodate menopausal symptoms.

Get Support Through Menopause with Joi

Joi offers various solutions to help women navigate this phase more comfortably. Our approach includes personalized hormone replacement therapy (HRT), which can alleviate many menopausal symptoms. HRT involves administering estrogen or a combination of estrogen and progesterone to help balance hormone levels and reduce symptoms. Hormone replacement therapy can be a crucial tool in making the menopause journey easier. Schedule a consultation to learn more and find relief from menopause symptoms. 

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