Menopause: Workplace Support

Women and Equalities – in the House of Commons at on 15 May 2024.

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Photo of Andrew Gwynne Andrew Gwynne Shadow Minister (Social Care)

What steps she is taking with Cabinet colleagues to support women experiencing menopause at work.

Photo of Maria Caulfield Maria Caulfield The Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Health and Social Care, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Department for Business and Trade) (Minister for Women)

In March last year we appointed Helen Tomlinson as the Government’s first ever menopause employment champion. She has been working up and down the country, visiting businesses large and small and giving them advice on policies to support menopausal women in the workplace. She recently published her 12-month review, “Shattering the Silence about Menopause”.

Photo of Andrew Gwynne Andrew Gwynne Shadow Minister (Social Care)

I am grateful for that reply. Labour is the party of women’s equality. The previous Labour Government did more to advance equality than any other, and the next one will match that record. We are committed to supporting women experiencing menopause to thrive at work by requiring large employers to adopt menopause action plans. Will the Minister do the same?

Photo of Maria Caulfield Maria Caulfield The Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Health and Social Care, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Department for Business and Trade) (Minister for Women)

As usual, this Government have already done all of that work. In England we have the Wellbeing of Women pledge, which the NHS, the civil service and this Parliament have signed. We will take no lectures from Labour on women’s health. While we have had a women’s health strategy for two years, Labour-run Wales has no health plan for women.

Photo of Anneliese Dodds Anneliese Dodds Party Chair, Labour Party, Chair of Labour Policy Review, Shadow Secretary of State for Women and Equalities

Research shows that one in 10 women with menopausal symptoms have left work due to a lack of support. In some cases, this will have been due to discrimination. Women experiencing menopause know that this is because of their age and sex, but the law does not protect them on that combined basis. Why not?

Photo of Maria Caulfield Maria Caulfield The Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Health and Social Care, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Department for Business and Trade) (Minister for Women)

The Equality Act 2010 already protects women on the basis of sex, age and disability. It is this Government who are changing the experience of menopause by rolling out women’s health hubs in every integrated care board across England, so that women can access menopause support. We also have our hormone replacement therapy prepayment certificate, which is available for just under £20 a year for women to get all their HRT prescriptions. Over half a million women in England have bought one of those certificates.

Photo of Anneliese Dodds Anneliese Dodds Party Chair, Labour Party, Chair of Labour Policy Review, Shadow Secretary of State for Women and Equalities

The Minister referred to Labour’s Equality Act, which of course includes protections against dual discrimination, but the Conservatives have refused to enact those protections. Labour would put that right. We would also require large businesses to produce menopause action plans, which the Government have refused to do, and we would also publish guidance for smaller businesses. We would set a new investment target for women-led start-ups, and we would transform the rights of women at work with a new deal for working people. The Minister for Women and Equalities has suggested, of course, that menopause at work is a left-wing issue. Does this Minister agree?

Photo of Maria Caulfield Maria Caulfield The Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Health and Social Care, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Department for Business and Trade) (Minister for Women)

The shadow Minister fails to mention the Help to Grow portal, which has a menopause resource hub that enables employers to use that information to better support women in the workplace, whether with flexible working—under laws that this Conservative Government have introduced—or through simple measures such as recognising that even the uniform a woman wears in the workplace can make a difference. This Conservative Government have raised the bar on menopause health and support in the workplace and in healthcare, while Labour for many years could not even define what a woman actually is.