MPs call for ‘menopause leave’ trial to support women at work

A committee of MPs is calling for a “menopause leave” pilot scheme to help support women in the workplace.

A report from the Women and Equalities Committee said symptoms – including difficulty sleeping, anxiety and memory problems – can have a “significant and sometimes debilitating impact” on women, and offering leave could help stop them feeling forced out of their jobs.

They want the government to organise a pilot of the scheme with a public sector employer and to publish a evaluation of it within 12 months, including proposals for further rollout.

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The committee’s chair, Tory MP Caroline Nokes, said: “Menopause is inevitable. The steady haemorrhage of talented women from our workforce, however, is not.

“Stigma, shame and dismissive cultures can, and must, be dismantled. It is imperative that we build workplaces – and a society – which not only supports those going through the menopause, but encourages some of the most experienced and skilled workers in our economy to thrive.”

The report makes a number of recommendations in addition to the pilot, including appointing a menopause ambassador to help to introduce model workplace policies – such as how to request reasonable adjustments, advice on flexible working and sick leave, and how to build a supportive culture.

The MPs also want the government to launch a consultation by the end of the year on how to make menopause a protected characteristic, like pregnancy or maternity, and to launch a visible public health campaign outlining the symptoms of the menopause, its impact, and how to seek treatment and support at work.

“Menopausal women have been mocked and maligned for too long,” added Ms Nokes. “It is time that the government seizes the opportunity to enact change. It is time to support, and celebrate, these women.”

A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Care said the government would consider the report’s recommendations, but claimed it had already “put women’s health at the top of the agenda”, pointing to its women’s health strategy for England and its appointment of a women’s health ambassador.

They added: “The UK-wide menopause taskforce is seeking to end the taboos surrounding the menopause and considering the role workplace policies can play in supporting menopausal women, and the government’s health and wellbeing fund is helping expand and develop projects which support women experiencing the menopause to remain in the workplace.”