Section.6(1) Equality Act 2010 states that “A person has a disability if he or she has a ‘physical or mental impairment’ which has a ‘substantial and long-term adverse effect on [his or her] ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities”.
The decision of an Employment Tribunal when it erred in striking out a menopause disability discrimination claim in Rooney v Leicester City Council brings this question into focus.
The EAT held that a tribunal erred in deciding that an employee suffering from menopausal symptoms was not disabled under the Equality Act 2010, and in dismissing her disability and sex discrimination, harassment and victimisation claims at a preliminary hearing. The tribunal’s judgment failed to properly analyse the claims and consider the evidence presented to it.
This case is an example of the difficulties faced by menopausal women in the workplace and the challenges that can arise in establishing that their symptoms amount to a disability, as well as the importance for a tribunal to carefully consider the evidence before drawing its findings. Despite setting out the employee’s comprehensive list of symptoms and the adverse effects on her day-to-day activities, the tribunal’s conclusion was that the effects were only minor or trivial.
It is also worth considering what legal protections currently exist to prevent menopausal women receiving unfair treatment at work. While the EAT has overturned the tribunal’s decision, the case will now return to a freshly constituted tribunal to carefully analyse R’s evidence and determine, among other things, whether the definition of ‘disability’ is satisfied.
This is only the second appellate case concerning menopause discrimination at work that we are aware of, illustrating that these decisions are rarely appealed. Parliament’s Women and Equalities Committee has recently held an inquiry into this area, and its recommendations are awaited. These are expected to include whether further legislation is required to adequately protect menopausal women from discrimination at work.
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