Can menopause be classed as a disability?
The menopause is a natural part of ageing, which typically occurs when a woman is between 45 – 55 years old. There are many symptoms of menopause that women can suffer from such as problems with memory or concentration, anxiety, night sweats, hot flushes and many more.
Under section 6 of the Equality Act 2010, a person has a disability if they have ‘a physical or mental impairment and the impairment has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on their ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.’ Although menopausal symptoms can last for longer than four years, the controversy behind menopause being classed as a disability is due to the fact that the symptoms are not permanent and can change overtime. However, in the recent case of Ms M Davies v Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service the Employment tribunal ruled that menopause can be classed as a disability.
In this case, Ms Davies was employed as a Court Officer in 1997 and held an immaculate record throughout her years working for the Scottish Courts. Ms Davies began experiencing the onset of menopause which resulted in symptoms of anxiety, palpitations, memory loss, reduced concentration, heavy bleeding resulting in anaemia and a bout of cystitis. In 2017, Ms Davies was dismissed for gross misconduct.
Ms Davies claimed that she had been unfairly dismissed and was discriminated against on the grounds of disability, due to her menopause. The Employment Tribunal ruled that Ms Davies’ case of menopause could be classed as a disability, she had been unfairly dismissed and was to be given her job back by the end of June 2018 and awarded with £19, 000 for injury to feelings and loss of pay.
It is important to note that this case does not confirm that menopause will automatically be classed as a disability, it depends on how it affects the individual woman at that stage in her life. Therefore, this type of condition will be judged by the effect of the individual’s symptoms.
Now, what does this mean for employers? Before making a decision with regards to an individual’s employment, as an employer, it is important to take all aspects of the individual’s current state into account. It is clear in this case that Ms Davies was suffering from severe symptoms of menopause and this should have been taken into account by her employer, before dismissing her for gross misconduct.