01 June 2022
The Government’s Women’s Health strategy due to be published later this year plans to highlight the importance of raising both awareness and understanding of women’s health in the workplace.
It will include a chapter on ‘Menstrual health and gynaecological conditions’ which will explore ways to improve awareness, care and treatment of those suffering from endometriosis and other similar conditions. Normalising discussions on taboo topics including periods and the impact of the menopause at work will be covered. The UK Menopause Taskforce is also considering improving workplace support for the menopause.
Menstruation and period pain charities have called on the UK government to introduce menstruation leave. This follows approval by Spanish politicians of a draft Bill in Spain to provide three days of paid leave for people with severe period pain. Up to three days per month will be paid for by the state from day one of employment and this may extend to five days for particularly severe cases. A doctor's note will be required to access the right but it is not expected to apply to those who experience mild discomfort.
It has been estimated that, globally, 60-90 per cent of people who have periods suffer from dysmenorrhea (severe period pain). The rate in Spain is predicted to be approximately 75 per cent. Spain has said it is important to clarify what a painful period is, and that they are not talking about slight discomfort, but about serious symptoms such as diarrhoea, severe headaches or fever.
Whilst no legislation is pending in the UK, employers may wish to demonstrate the value they place in their female workforce by preparing now to introduce policies to support all three of these areas of female health - severe period pain, endometriosis sufferers and the menopause.
Arguably, extreme cases of these conditions could amount to a disability for a worker under the Equality Act 2010 if it has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on their ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities. In that case, employers would have a legal obligation to consider making reasonable adjustments to the worker’s conditions of work or working environment to remove the disadvantage caused by the condition.
Support in the workplace for women’s health issues is firmly on the government’s agenda and many employers will want to ensure it is actioned and high on their list of priorities as well.
If employers would like any help with the legal obligations for supporting women’s health in the workplace, please contact Charlie Barnes.