Menopause in the workplace – changes to the law

By Marion Nicolaides, Employment Relations Advisor at The Royal College of Midwives on 28 February 2024

With new changes to the law requiring employers in the UK to be more supportive of women going through the menopause, the RCM’s, Employment Advisor, Marion Nicolaides outlines how they will help midwives and MSWs.

The menopause…it’s something that is medically inevitable for women and yet it’s something that is not often discussed openly, let alone in the workplace. All women will experience the menopause at some point in their lives with around four - fifths experiencing some obvious symptoms. These range from anxiety, mood swings, fatigue or hot flushes.

Imagine going through these symptoms while trying to work and provide the best care to women and their families. It’s likely to be pretty difficult, and to say the menopause symptoms can have a significant impact on women at work is probably an understatement. Why is all of this important? Well, with a nearly entirely female workforce, almost a quarter of maternity staff could be experiencing the menopause at any one time! It’s vital for maternity services they are supported and feel valued at work. They need to be able to go through these hormonal changes in a supportive environment, so that they can continue to provide the outstanding care they want to give and the women they help deserve.

That’s why the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has just published new guidance on menopause in the workplace, setting out employer’s legal obligations under the Equality Act 2010. The aim of this is to ensure that across the UK, women going through the menopause have the support they need to continue working. Crucially, if a worker’s menopause symptoms amount to disability under the Equality Act 2010, employers will be under a legal obligation to make reasonable adjustments for midwives and midwifery support workers (MSWs). Failing to do so will amount legally to disability discrimination. 

These changes could be anything– big or small, and can include things such as quiet rooms to allow women to relax, installing cooling system or fans to help keep the temperature cooler or amending the uniform policy to allow women to wear cooler or more comfortable clothing. Employers also must now support approaches such as flexible working and allow changes to shift patterns for women experiencing menopausal symptoms.

These changes may seem simple and obvious but they can make a big difference. RCM reps have been pushing employers for these changes but until now they have been relying on the goodwill of employers, many of whom are really supportive of midwives and MSWs going through the menopause. But sadly, many women will know that not all of them do, and what the new guidance brings is the legal obligation for the employer to not discriminate against women due to menopause symptoms. 

Importantly, these changes are not difficult to implement, nor costly and yet they could make a big difference to the working lives of women. It’s vital that we help women going through the menopause stay in work both for human reasons and because the NHS needs them - there is already a shortage of around 2500 midwives in England alone! The NHS cannot afford not to take menopause symptoms seriously and RCM will be supporting members all along the way to make sure that employers fulfil their legal obligations.

You can find more on menopause in the workplace in the RCM publication which outlines how to recognise the mental and physical signs and symptoms of the menopause and offers tips and advice to help support staff. Also have a look at our webinar on working with the menopause at Menopause (