Is All This Talk Of Menopause In The Workplace Another Penalty For Women?
Everyone’s talking about menopause, particularly menopause in the workplace. This can only be a good thing. Gone are the days when it was mysteriously spoken of in hushed tones using the euphemism ‘the change’. It’s good for women to know what to expect and to be able to share stories. But is it all going a bit too far?
Celebrities have been on their soap boxes for some time proclaiming about how great they look and feel despite menopause and how they have ‘battled through’. Not forgetting that they don’t have real jobs or live the same life as us regular folks. Let’s also not forget that this is a money-spinner for them. Great, women know the kinds of things to expect. This is good.
Information, especially about health, what is and what is not normal can save lives. But if you listened to it all you could start dreading the menopause before you even get there and whilst it is a period of quite extensive change, it is nothing women cannot handle. Women have to deal with the monthly ordeal of menstruation; the labour of childbirth and child-rearing (no excuse for that pun); living in a man’s world: menopause is just another stage in life.
This is not to acknowledge that some women may have a terrible time of it all. It can cause crippling depression and a raft of other physical issues. Those who suffer extensively will however be in the minority. For most women, it may at times be a bit of a drag but given that perimenopause then menopause is likely to take at least ten years, it really is a case of getting on with it and not letting it grind you down. And getting the appropriate medical treatment which is much more widely available.
For those who suffer terribly, the disability provisions of the Equality Act 2010 may prove useful in protecting them from dismissal or other detriment at work. For most women though, do they really want their employer asking questions about something which is so inherently private? Do we really want menopause tsars in the workplace? Are we not putting another target on women’s backs? We already have the motherhood penalty.
Pregnancy and maternity discrimination continue to blight the workplace. Every time a woman has a child she is risking her career prospects. Are we not giving employers another reason to overlook women if they think of them as a protected group i.e. all women over the age of 45? This emphasis on menopause in the workplace surely cannot be a positive focus for women.
We are quite clear that the Government’s decision not to introduce separate legal protections around menopause is the right thing to do. The protection is there for the most serious cases. For the rest of half of the population wouldn’t they just like to be able to get on with their work without being put under a microscope and judged by their biology.