Supporting employees going through the menopause transition should be something all employers do. However, we are hearing of more cases where women feel unsupported and sometimes resulting in employment tribunal claims. Here are 3 cases relating to menopause.
1: Merchant v BT (2012)
Facts: The claimant was suffering from menopausal symptoms which affected her performance at work and was subject to performance management. Her manager disregarded the company’s performance management procedure, which recommended conducting occupational health investigations where health issues impacted performance, instead choosing to rely on his own knowledge of menopause based on his wife’s symptoms. The manager dismissed the claimant for poor performance without further investigation, despite having previously referred male employees where health issues had been raised as a cause of poor performance.
Decision: The tribunal found that the decision to dismiss the claimant was unfair. This was due to the manager’s failure to make further enquiries. The tribunal also found that the employer’s failure to involve occupational health and the making of assumptions about the Claimant amounted to unlawful sex discrimination.
2: Davies v Scottish Courts and Tribunal Service (2018)
Facts: The claimant was a Court Officer suffering with perimenopausal symptoms, including memory loss. She was being treated for cystitis at the time, the medication for which had to be diluted into water. During a court session, she returned from the toilet to see that 2 colleagues were drinking from a jug of water and her pencil case was open, where she kept her medication. She mistakenly thought they were drinking her water with her diluted medication and panicked. She later gave confused and inconsistent accounts of what had occurred, which was attributable to her symptoms. She was later dismissed for gross misconduct due to her reaction and the account she gave, which the employer found breached her employer’s values and behaviours.
Decision: The claimant was awarded £14,000.00 for unfair dismissal and was reinstated. The tribunal further held that her symptoms amounted to a disability and that the dismissal was because of something arising in consequence of her disability; she was therefore awarded £5,000.00 in respect of injury to feelings.
3: A v Bonmarché Limited (2019)
Facts: The claimant’s manager would often demean and humiliate her in front of colleagues, joking that she was ‘menopausal’, referred to her as a ‘dinosaur’ and blamed mistakes she made on her menopause. The manager refused to make reasonable adjustments despite knowing of her condition. The claimant took sick leave due to anxiety and depression and on return was told that she was ‘pushing her luck’ when she asked for a break to take medication. The claimant felt that she had no other option but to resign.
Decision: The claimant successfully claimed direct age and sex discrimination and harassment and was awarded £10,000.00 for loss of wages and £18,000.00 for injury to feelings.
These cases demonstrate that mismanagement for employees going through the menopause transition, can result in costly disputes. These could have been prevented with understanding of the menopause and support by making reasonable adjustments that are tailored to an individual’s specific needs. As well as potentially amounting to age and sex discrimination, menopausal symptoms can constitute disability under the Equality Act 2010 and therefore employers should always investigate fully when medical reasons are raised as a cause of poor performance or attendance. Workplace policies and procedures should be applied to employees equally, failing which an employer risks a dismissal being regarded as unfair.
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