Tribunal rules menopause a disability

Published Sep 14, 2023

A tribunal has ordered Direct Line to pay compensation to a former employee after it failed to make reasonable adjustments for menopausal symptoms.

In the case, Ms Lynskey had worked in telesales for the company from 2016 to 2022 before she resigned and bought a claim that Direct Line had breached the Equality Act 2010.

The tribunal upheld her complaint of failing to make reasonable adjustments and a “Section 15” complaint which refers to an individual being treated less favourably due to a disability.

At tribunal, the former employee outlined how her menopause symptoms which included low mood, anxiety, mood swings, effects on her memory and poor concentration meant she struggled to meet the required levels of performance.

Consequently, she was transferred to an alternative role but with less pay. In the new role her performance was still found to be below the required standards and formal performance improvement processes were started.

Ms Lynskey repeatedly informed her manager of the impact of her menopause symptoms. But the manager informed HR that there were no mitigation reasons for her underperformance. The company arranged for an Occupational Health referral but some of the recommended actions were not implement such as refresher training which was deemed too expensive.

The tribunal listed out eight suggested adjustments which the employer could reasonably have implemented to enable Ms Lynskey to be more successful in her role - but none were put in place.

Ms Lynskey’s severe menopausal symptoms were regarded as a disability by the tribunal.

Learning for employers

It will not always be the case that menopause symptoms will be deemed a disability as defined by the Equality Act. Tribunals will apply a test that “an impairment must have a substantial and long-term effect on an individual’s ability to carry out normal daily activities” to be classified as a disability.

Employers do need to note that severe menopause symptoms including memory loss, reduced concentration and severe anxiety could satisfy a test for disability which then triggers a requirement for reasonable adjustments to be considered.