Women Menopause and Work

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2013 National Women's Conference
16 October 2012

Conference believes that under the pressure of the austerity policies adopted by management of both public and private sector organisations, women workers are being victimised by the unsympathetic enforcement of sickness absence procedures for short term absence. Women experiencing menstrual and menopausal symptoms continue to feel the pressure and prejudice of having ‘women’s problems’ which are debilitating, but the symptoms of which last a comparatively short time, yet can frequently trigger formal monitoring procedures.

Conference commends the motion agreed at the 2010 Women’s Conference on Women’s Health Issues and Capability Procedures from Derbyshire County Branch and the subsequent UNISON Organising for Health and Safety ‘The Menopause and Work’ Guide.

Conference notes in particular the 2010 motion referred to ‘Absences as a result of issues relating to pregnancy, the menopause or the menstrual cycle/periods are recorded in the same way as any other sickness absence’.

Conference also notes the UNISON guide ‘The Menopause and Work’ states:-

1) Sickness absence procedures should make it clear that they are flexible enough to cater for menopause-related sickness absence. Women should experience no detriment because they may need time off during this time.

2) All menopause-related sickness absence should be recorded as an ongoing issue, rather than individual absences. Many employers use the Bradford Factor to evaluate sickness absence, which penalises many short term absences by assigning a negative score to the employee. However allowances are made for a few periods of long-term absence.

3) Working time arrangements should be flexible enough to ensure that they meet the needs of menopausal women, who may require leave suddenly at short notice: They may also need more or lengthier comfort breaks during the day.

Menopause remains a hidden issue and is trivialised by management and HR departments.

In one East Midlands Health Branch there has been an increase of 2500% in ill health dismissals from September 2008 to September 2012 per annum. The dismissals in September 2012 were female staff aged 55-64.

We are aware and concerned this continues to happen to women and disabled members across the East Midlands and possibly is repeated throughout other regions.

Conference instructs the national women’s committee to highlight this aspect of the impact of the austerity policies and the inequality aspect on women by:

a) Issuing a publicity leaflet for distribution drawing branches and members attention to the UNISON Guide on ‘The Menopause and Work’;

b) Urge Branch Secretaries via the Equality Officers or Women’s Officers to prioritise negotiating protection for women with menopause in line with the UNISON Guide in their Health and Wellbeing policies;

c) Urge Branch Secretaries to monitor any/all caseloads, which may have led to women members being dismissed under capability and to report them under the equality monitoring form;

d) Report back to national women’s conference 2014 with progress made.