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Almost half of women would lie to employers to cover up menopause symptoms to avoid discrimination in the workplace 

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Research by law firm, Shakespeare Martineau, has found that female employees are hiding symptoms and discomfort of menopause from their employers. Almost half (48%) of women surveyed said they have lied about reasons for taking a sick day to cover up menopause symptoms, whilst only 49% said they would feel comfortable taking time off from work due to menopause-related symptoms. 

The survey, conducted by Shakespeare Martineau, revealed that despite the recent push from the Government to support over 50s back into work, more needs to be done surrounding menopausal support and awareness in the workplace.  

With less than a third (29%) of women reporting that they would feel comfortable asking decision makers for reasonable adjustments in the workplace to support symptoms, employment law experts from the firm are keen to encourage employers to join the conversation. If employers were to place more of a focus on encouraging open and honest communication about the symptoms of menopause and how this may affect their female employees, it could encourage more employees to seek support. 

With 39% of women still feeling embarrassed to talk about the symptoms of menopause in the workplace, employers need to gain a deeper understanding of the symptom and the potential disruption to everyday life. Misunderstandings could lead to future action as it has been found that almost half (49%) of women surveyed would feel able to raise a formal complaint should they feel they are being discriminated against as a result of experiencing menopause.  

Cecily Donoghue, senior associate and employment expert at Shakespeare Martineau, said: “The fact that so many women indicated that they would lie about why they needed a sick day, purely to cover up their menopause symptoms, is really sad, particularly in 2023. With our research also showing that menopause would prevent over a third (37%) of women from re-entering the workplace, it’s clear that more needs to be put in place to support both businesses and those employees affected. The real need for workplace initiatives around how best to support colleagues experiencing menopause symptoms also came through strongly in the research results.” 

Whilst menopause in itself is not a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010, there are still legal protections in place should women feel their sex, age or disability has been discriminated against. For employers, this means ensuring all employees undergo training to understand menopause and its effect on women in the workplace, encouraging healthy conversations within the team and creating a safe space for women, should they need to report cases of discrimination.  

Cecily added: “For too long, this issue has not been given the attention it deserves. Businesses need support on how to implement suitable support mechanisms and women should feel comfortable in the workplace. It’s time for everyone to engage in simple changes to the working environment, as well as raising awareness around the stigma of menopause within the workplace, to effect meaningful and productive change.” 

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