The Women and Equalities Committee has launched an inquiry into the work-related discrimination experienced by women experiencing the menopause.
Most women (three in every five) are negatively affected at work during the menopause, the Committee stated, and nearly a million of them have left their jobs as a result of their symptoms.
This issue affects female workers at the peak of their careers – usually in their late 40s or early 50s – when they are more likely to be in the running for the most senior roles.
While the discrimination faced by these women can be challenged in court, there is currently no specific protected category for them, leaving them to claim sex, age or disability discrimination.
“One of the key messages coming through is that people don’t feel that they’ve got adequate recourse to tribunals, because they think the legislation isn’t clear enough,” Committee Chair, Caroline Nokes, told the Guardian.
“We are haring too many stories of people finding the most convenient mechanism to bring a claim for disability discrimination – the menopause isn’t a disability.”
She added that she would not “rule out” making the menopause a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010.
Outside of the individual impact of the issue is a societal one. The Committee pointed out that women leaving their jobs erodes the economic productivity of workplaces, and widens the gender pay and pensions gaps.
“Excluding menopausal women from the workplace is detrimental to our economy, our society and our place on the world stage,” Nokes said.
“Despite the fact that hundreds of thousands of women in the UK are currently going through the menopause – a process that can be both physically and mentally draining – it is ignored in legislation. It is time to uncover and address this huge issue, which has been left near-invisible for far too long.”