'Menopause is NOT a disability... but it is debilitating': Women call for ... trends now

'Menopause is NOT a disability... but it is debilitating': Women call for ... trends now
'Menopause is NOT a disability... but it is debilitating': Women call for ... trends now

'Menopause is NOT a disability... but it is debilitating': Women call for ... trends now

Women are calling for greater recognition of 'brutal' menopause symptoms but are warning new guidance from the equalities watchdog suggesting 'reasonable adjustments' risk shaming women instead of empowering them.

Guidance from the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) issued to bosses stating they could face legal action if they do not make adjustments such as quiet rooms and cooler uniforms has sparked backlash from those who disagree with the menopause being classed as a disability

Women have told MailOnline such an approach is mere 'virtue-signalling' and will not encourage them to come forward about menopause in the workplace due to a fear of being shamed for requiring changes.

But others have argued the guidance is a step in the right direction, as long as it is treated with nuance and taken seriously by bosses. 

It comes after the health expert behind Davina McCall's menopause documentary says it's a 'matter of health not law'. 

Broadcaster and commentator Narinder Kaur told MailOnline that the guidance will not take away any of the 'stigma and shame' which prevents many women from speaking about the menopause.

Broadcaster and commentator Narinder Kaur told MailOnline that the guidance will not take away any of the 'stigma and shame' which prevents many women from speaking about the menopause

Broadcaster and commentator Narinder Kaur told MailOnline that the guidance will not take away any of the 'stigma and shame' which prevents many women from speaking about the menopause

Founder of Freda Health, which provides organic period care, and My Modern Menopause Afsaneh Parvizi-Wayne staunchly opposes menopause being defined as a disability

Founder of Freda Health, which provides organic period care, and My Modern Menopause Afsaneh Parvizi-Wayne staunchly opposes menopause being defined as a disability

The 51-year-old from London said: 'For menopausal women, companies should be recognising and helping us because it’s almost 10 years of your life. You can’t be sat in a meeting and suddenly having sweats or having a tidal wave of exhaustion.

'But on the other hand you still have that stigma and shame attached to it. You may have other people in an office thinking, "Karen's sat there having a hot flush, I didn’t get that and I have a headache today".'

One of the measures suggested by the guidance is allowing women to go into a cooler room to work or for a break, but Ms Kaur believes this is in danger of suggesting menopausal women are 'unfit to work anymore'.

She continued: 'The sad truth of all of this is is either women have to sit there and suck it up, secretly pretending that they're not having the symptoms, because they’d be so afraid they would be seen as replaceable, or they'll be loud and proud about it but people are going to judge them for it.

'There's no winning for companies, or women or men. When I’m having menopause symptoms it's not a disability but it is debilitating, I struggle to walk from the sofa if I have that exhaustion.'

Ms Kaur added she struggles to 'jump through hoops of fire' to get the support she needs, while also juggling being a mother and working full time.

'It's high time it's recognised because your symptoms can be so debilitating and brutal.'

Symptoms of the menopause - which include hot flushes, brain fog and difficulty sleeping - can be considered a disability under the Equality Act 2010 if they have a 'long-term and substantial impact' on a woman's ability to carry out their usual day-to-day activities, according to the watchdog. 

But founder of Freda Health, which provides organic period care, and My Modern Menopause Afsaneh Parvizi-Wayne staunchly opposes menopause being defined as a disability.

Describing it as a form of virtue-signalling, she said: 'For employers now to be penalised is rather ridiculous because we are looking at equality. 

Founder of Managing the Menopause Emma Thomas told MailOnline it is vital that those women who have serious enough symptoms to be classed as having a disability are recognised

Founder of Managing the Menopause Emma Thomas told MailOnline it is vital that those women who have serious enough symptoms to be classed as having a disability are recognised

Ms Kaur, from London, said her menopause symptoms are 'not a disability, but it is debilitating'

Ms Kaur, from London, said her menopause symptoms are 'not a disability, but it is debilitating'

'Equality doesn’t come from labelling something natural a disability. It adds to the stigma. It’s come from a good place but I do disagree.'

The 59-year-old said menopause has become a 'hot topic', but should be treated as 'just another cycle' in women's reproductive lives, with the focus being on educating them about the benefits of medical treatments such as HRT.

She continued: 'Real research and clinical conversations are missing in the workplace. Menopause educators have their place, but they shouldn't replace that.

'This is an unbelievable opportunity to change and reframe life for women. All this noise comes from a good place, but it doesn’t do what it needs to do. Let’s do it properly, let's use this time to really shift the dial.'

Not all women are so despondent, however. A menopause educator who specialises in giving consultations, guidance and resources to companies looking to support menopausal women said it is 'really important' to be discussing workplace changes.

Emma Thomas, 51, founder of Managing the Menopause, told MailOnline that it is vital to recognise there 'will be a small proportion of people who have such debilitating symptoms for such a long time that it’s important that employers understand that this could be classed as a disability.'

But she added: 'What we don’t want is this wholesale negativity around menopause because it’s not helping our case about gender equity, getting women into positions of leadership.

'If somebody is struggling then they should be able to come forward and talk about it and ask for the adjustments they need and not have the fear that it is going to be treated badly and fear they will be treated differently or it will harm their career.

Bosses have been warned they risk breaching equality laws unless they allow menopausal women to wear cooler uniforms and work from home on hot days (Stock Image)

Bosses have been warned they risk breaching equality laws unless they allow menopausal women to wear cooler uniforms and work from home on hot days (Stock Image)

'It needs not to be the butt of jokes, it needs to be taken seriously. We know that a high proportion of individuals won’t feel comfortable talking about it in the workplace and for some people they are not going to ever want to talk about it in the workplace and that’s fine too. It’s a highly individualised thing.'

Ms Thomas, from Oxford, used to work in a corporate firm until she was made redundant during the pandemic, and said in her previous roles the menopause was not discussed at all.

'It has changed so much even in the last two to three years. In my last corporate role we did have somebody do a session around menopause which is great, but it's not a tick box exercise, we don't just wheel someone in once to do a session. It’s got to be part of a wider change.

'Even just starting these

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