Menopause – what are my obligations as an employer?

Menopause – what are my obligations as an employer?

Sarah Buxton sheds light on the legal framework related to menopause and offers practical advice for creating a supportive workplace for all team members.

In the modern world of workplace diversity and inclusion, addressing perimenopause and menopause has become increasingly important, especially in professions like dentistry that demand high levels of empathy and understanding. 

Statistics from the General Dental Council (2022) reveal a significant trend within the dental profession: 52% of dentists and an overwhelming 92.8% of dental care professionals (DCPs) are female. 

Furthermore, approximately 35% of DCPs and 43% of dentists fall within the age bracket commonly associated with menopause (Bell, Garlick and Stevens, 2022). 

This data highlights a crucial consideration for the sector, as a substantial segment of its workforce is likely to experience menopausal symptoms, underscoring the importance of addressing this issue in dental practices.

The reality is that dental professionals across the board must navigate the complexities of legal obligations while fostering an environment that supports employees experiencing menopausal symptoms. 

Legal obligations

The Equality Act 2010 (which covers England, Scotland and Wales) does not specifically list menopause as a protected characteristic. 

However, the intersection of menopause with anti-discrimination laws indicates that treating employees less favourably because of their menopausal symptoms could be seen as discrimination if it relates to a protected characteristic. These are age, disability, gender reassignment, and sex. 

For example, unwanted remarks, banter, jokes or teasing regarding someone’s perimenopause or menopause symptoms may constitute harassment, or even sexual harassment, depending on the context of the behaviour.

This means dental practice employers must be vigilant to prevent discrimination, harassment, and victimisation related to menopause, underscoring the importance of a well-informed and inclusive approach to employee welfare.

Recognising the broad impact of menopause on workplace rights and wellbeing is essential for dental practices committed to upholding legal and ethical standards.

Supportive practices

Creating a supportive environment for perimenopausal and menopausal employees involves a multifaceted approach that extends beyond legal compliance to include cultural and procedural changes within the workplace. This may include:

  • Staff training and awareness
  • Open communication
  • Reasonable adjustments to workplace practices 
  • Updating wellbeing policies.

Moreover, ensuring that health and safety assessments consider menopausal symptoms, alongside establishing in-house and local support networks with other practices, can play a crucial role in accommodating menopausal employees. It is also important to cultivate the expertise to guide employees towards more information and support options.

A team approach

Dental practices must also consider the balance between supporting menopausal employees and the expectations of other staff and patients. Promoting an open and inclusive culture where menopause is not taboo encourages everyone to engage in constructive dialogue, enhancing understanding and support across the board.

It is also important for employers to have clear procedures for handling complaints related to menopause discrimination, ensuring a safe and respectful workplace for all. Training and awareness can help prevent behaviours that might be considered harassment, safeguarding against discrimination and fostering a positive work environment.

Valuing everyone

For dental practices, supporting menopausal employees is not just about legal compliance. It is also about creating a workplace culture that values diversity, inclusion and empathy. 

By weaving supportive practices into the fabric of workplace policies and culture, dental professionals can ensure their practices are welcoming and accommodating for everyone, enhancing workplace morale and productivity in the process. 

This holistic approach benefits not only menopausal employees but the entire dental practice, contributing to a more positive, empathetic and inclusive working environment.

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Bell J, Garlick D, Stevens C (2022) It’s time to talk about the M word. Br Dent J 3: 15-17

General Dental Council (2022) Registration Statistical Report 2022. Available at [accessed March 2024]

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