Legal profession must be “more open about menopause”

Arrowsmith: Guidance co-author

More openness about the menopause is needed, the Law Society said yesterday as it released guidance on experiencing menopause in the legal profession to mark Menopause Awareness Month.

The guidance, issued in conjunction with healthcare support business Peppy, quotes a partner at City giant Hogan Lovells saying: “Up until now, menopausal symptoms have been something of a surprise to everyone – women included. It’s time to demystify it.”

It highlights that menopausal age women – generally 45 to 55 – are the fastest growing demographic in the workplace, and three out of four women get symptoms; one in four troublesome enough to affect everyday life.

Law Society president Simon Davis said the menopause was often a taboo subject. “With women now comprising over 60% of new entrants to the profession, it is high time to normalise discussions around menopause in the workplace…

“It is important to recognise that individual experiences of the menopause will vary greatly and that transgender men and women, non-binary and intersex people may also experience menopausal symptoms.”

The guidance says that managers “do not need to be menopause experts”; rather they need simply to understand how menopause might affect some women and show “a willingness to have an open conversation particularly in regard to the practical needs of the employee”.

The society has urged law firms to create a culture which encourages such openness. “Taking a range of simple and effective steps – such as ensuring access to cool areas in the office, and flexible working hours for those struggling to sleep due to the menopause – will help to create a more inclusive workplace,” Mr Davis said.

“Solicitors often find it difficult to manage symptoms in court or when visiting clients in external environments they cannot control. Firms and legal businesses should also consider any potential measures which could assist outside of the office.

“We must ensure that the next generation of women does not leave the legal profession because they feel unsupported in managing their menopause symptoms at work.”

The guidance – co-authored by Kathy Abernethy, director of menopause services at Peppy Health, and Irwin Mitchell employment law partner Jenny Arrowsmith – cautions that some menopausal women may be protected under the Equality Act 2010 if their physical or physiological symptoms are severe enough to amount to a disability.

“There has been some litigation about the menopause and the issue of reasonable adjustments, and it’s likely the number of cases will increase as women remain working,” it notes.

There will be a virtual launch of the guidance on 17 September.

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