MPs have called for menopause to be a protected feature and for a special ambassador to keep women in the workplace after a report found the UK is currently “bleeding talent”.
The lack of employer support for menopause symptoms is driving “highly educated and experienced” women out of work, according to the cross-party commission on women and equality.
Their report calls on the government to amend the Equality Act to introduce menopause as a protected feature and to require employers to make reasonable accommodations for workers in transition.
MEPs also urge ministers to abolish dual prescription charges for estrogen and progesterone as part of hormone replacement therapy (HRT), replacing them with a single fee.
With 4.5 million women aged 50-64 currently employed, the report highlights the knock-on effects of unemployment on the gender pay gap, the pension gap and the number of senior leadership positions.
Research found that women who experience at least one problematic menopause symptom are 43% more likely to leave their job by age 55 than those who do not have severe symptoms, while research from Bupa shows that 900,000 women experiencing menopause are out of work. have left.
The report recommends that a menopause ambassador could produce model policies and disseminate good practices, working with employers, unions and other stakeholders.
It also criticized an “unacceptable” zip code lottery for access to specialist care and recommends that there be a specialist menopause service in every clinical assignment group.
The report found that stigma, lack of support and discrimination were the main factors in women leaving the workplace; that the current law does not serve or protect women in the menopause; and women found that their primary care physician was not well equipped to properly diagnose or treat menopause, with women also paying more than they should for prescriptions.
It called on the government to immediately launch a consultation on introducing menopause as a protected feature, launch a public health campaign on menopause symptoms and test a “menopausal leave” policy in the public sector.
The chair of the committee on women and equality, Caroline Nokes MP, said: “The omission of menopause as a protected feature under the Equality Act is no longer tenable as 51% of the population will experience menopause.
“Menopausal women have been mocked and vilified for too long. It is time for the government to seize the opportunity to make changes. It is time to support and celebrate these women.”
Colin Davidson, head of employment at Edwards Duthie Shamash and co-chair of the Discrimination Law Association, who testified to the commission, said: “The government must listen to the commission’s proposals and act immediately to make menopause a protected feature to prevent women from becoming victims of harassment and discrimination in the workplace simply because they go through a natural part of their life cycle.”