Today is International Women’s Day, and an issue being mentioned more and more is what responsibility do employers have in taking into account the difficulties that women may experience during the menopause.
The Health and Safety at Work Act requires employers to ensure the health, safety and welfare of their employees. They are also required, under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations, to do risk assessments which should include any specific risks to menopausal women if they are employed.
These Risk assessments need to consider the specific requirements of menopausal women and should ensure that the working environment does not make their symptoms worse.
Issues such as workplace stress, temperature, ventilation, toilet facilities and access to cold water should be covered in the assessment.
The differences between men and women (such as the menopause) need to be acknowledged when assessing risk and deciding suitable risk control solutions, as this gives a better chance of ensuring that the health, safety and welfare of all workers is protected.
In the past, less attention has been given to the health and safety requirements of women. The previous emphasis has been on risk prevention in dangerous work mainly carried out by men in sectors such as construction and mining, where inadequate risk control can lead to fatalities.
As a result, regulation, policy and risk management has been predominantly based on work traditionally done by men, and less so on work done by women.
Even today, occupational health and safety often treats men and women as if they were the same, or makes gender-stereotypes, such as saying women do lighter work or that men are less likely to suffer from work-related stress. This assumption is NOT true.
Employers need to have a gender-sensitive approach acknowledging the differences that exist between male and female workers. Employers should identify the differing risks and propose control measures that are effective solutions for everyone.