After discussions in Parliament at the end of last year, menopause discrimination in the workplace remains in the headlines. We hear from those who are leading the way in ending the inequality…

By Rachel Tompkins

The menopause and perimenopause are natural parts of the ageing process. They are brought about by hormone changes that usually happen between the ages of 45 and 55. It can be an extremely unsettling and worrying time for women. The symptoms can include hot flushes, night sweats, weight gain, loss of libido and vaginal dryness, as well as incontinence and uterine prolapse. Menopause can also trigger mood swings, depression and insomnia for many women. Understandably, these symptoms can have a huge impact on a woman’s home life. But, they can also affect her work life too.

However, last November employers were urged to support women during the menopause or risk facing legal action. This came about because of the number of employment tribunals that cited menopause surging in recent years. According to figures from HM Courts and Tribunals Service, menopause was cited in 10 mentions in just the first six months of 2021.

Ending the stigma around menopause

Dr Shirin Lakhani, a cosmetic doctor and intimate health expert, has been keen to break the taboos around menopause. She is hoping to raise awareness of the importance of menopause rights, both in the workplace and in a broader sense. Last year, she spoke at the All-Party Parliamentary Group with MP Carolyn Harris about the impact of the menopause.

‘Over the last five years, 10 cases of alleged discrimination in the workplace have been with women affected by the menopause. These figures are just in Scotland. The overall total in the UK must be higher,’ says Dr Lakhani. ‘We need to remove another one of the barriers that make working life much harder for women. This will give them better rights when they’re going through the seismic change that is the menopause.’

menopause discrimination in the workplace

How can we end menopause discrimination in the workplace?

Under the Equality Act 2010, menopause discrimination is largely covered under three protected characteristics: age, sex and disability discrimination. The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 provides for safe working. This extends to working conditions when experiencing menopausal symptoms. ‘I would argue that this act is outdated and archaic,’ says Dr Lakhani.

‘We have campaigns to help fight the inequality that women face in areas such as period poverty and during pregnancy. However, the menopause sees women’s bodies undergo changes that are just as life-changing, if not more so, as either pregnancy or menstruation. So surely it’s about time we change the law to reflect this and give women more rights.’

Should the menopause be stated in equality laws?

Dr Lakhani isn’t alone in her views. Caroline Nokes, chair of the Women and Equalities Committee, is currently chairing an enquiry lead by a group of MPs into menopause discrimination. They launched the inquiry in August 2021 to look at whether officials need to strengthen equality laws. It’s also investigating whether the menopause should be a protected characteristic under the Equality Act. This currently states that it is against the law to discriminate against someone because of age, disability, gender, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex or sexual orientation.

‘I think that it’s important that women like myself speak out to support such law changes, so as to protect working women now and in the generations ahead,’ adds Dr Lakhani. ‘It’s only by breaking down the physical barriers such as these that we can truly begin to allow women to play on an even playing field with their male counterparts.’

Timpson: leading the way in ending menopause discrimination in the workplace

One employer who is leading the way in menopause rights is Timpson. This company made headlines last year after offering to pay for HRT prescriptions for staff. ‘James [Timpson CEO] has always been vocal about our support for colleagues who are experiencing the menopause. He wanted to see whether there was anything more we could do to get the message across,’ says Laura Garside, menopause champion for Timpson.

‘We have 450 women employees who could be of menopausal age. Since offering to pay for HRT prescriptions, we’ve so far had about 10 per cent of those come forward saying that they would like to benefit from it. Even though not everyone has taken it up, the feedback is that it’s been a great way of raising awareness of the issues and of being open about menopause. It’s lead to a more open conversation about the issue.’

Dr Shirin Lakhani is a cosmetic doctor with a specialist interest in hormones, menopausal health and intimate health. She helps women with menopausal skin, hormones and HRT, as well as intimate rejuvenation treatments such as the O-Shot, intimate peels, radio-frequency intimate tightening and HIFEM technology to help re-build the pelvic floor. Find her at

Related: Menopause relief: could magnets reduce your hot flushes?