In 1888, Eliza Orme was the first female in England to gain a law degree. It wasn’t until 1919 when the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act came into force, which marked a significant step towards women’s equality in the workforce and permitted them to become lawyers. Four women with first class degrees from Cambridge were then allowed to sit their law exams and become lawyers.

Since 1990, women have represented over 60 per cent of new entrants into the legal profession, and women now make up nearly half (49 per cent) of lawyers in law firms across the UK.

So surely, then, the health and wellbeing of women must be paid more consideration in the workplace?

The menopause is a natural part of life, and while not everyone suffers with symptoms, supporting those who do will improve their experience at work. Typically, the menopause occurs between the ages of 45 and 55, however it can occur anytime up to mid-60s. The

UK’s ageing population and increasing retirement age means more people are in work for longer – today, 3.5 million women aged 50 and over are in employment, a 72 per cent rise since 1994. 25 per cent of these women experience serious symptoms.

Research has shown around three million women have left employment due to female health problems, and over a third have taken sick leave. In 2019 alone, 900,000 women in the UK left their jobs. The legal sector’s demanding schedules, heavy work load and long hours can be particularly difficult, with common menopause symptoms including brain fog, anxiousness, fatigue, light-headedness, hot flushes, insomnia, and migraines.

Losing the most experienced, skilled, and knowledgeable legal experts at the ‘prime of their careers’ is not just worrying to the legal sector’s productivity but damages the number of women sitting at senior and partner level, further contributing to the gender pay gap. According to The Law Society, this sits at a mean average of 13 per cent.

Over the last year, companies of all sizes and sectors have led by example, adopting and implementing menstruation and menopause policies. Most legal employers agree that the health, safety, and welfare of employees is crucial; under the Equality Act 2010, menopause discrimination is largely covered under age, sex, and disability discrimination. In the same vein, the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 also provides for safe working, including working conditions when experiencing menopausal symptoms.

The first step at tackling ‘menopause taboo’ is by talking about it more candidly. Secondly, is encouraging workplaces to provide the right environment and support for managing menopausal symptoms.

There is much that legal employers can do to increase awareness and support for those experiencing the menopause, and as more is done to shed a spotlight on menopause issues at work, the number of discrimination cases will no doubt increase.

At RHL Solicitors, we are committed to supporting our staff through the menopause. Our Managing through the Menopause policy aims:

  • To foster an environment in which colleagues can openly and comfortably instigate conversation about menopause.
  • To ensure everyone understands what menopause is and can have supportive conversations in conjunction with a line manager or the HR and Occupational Health teams.
  • To help managers be more informed about the potential symptoms of menopause and how they can support staff in the workplace as required.
  • To support staff suffering with menopause symptoms and enable them to feel confident discussing and in asking for support.
  • To reduce absenteeism.
  • To reassure staff that we are a responsible employer who will try and support their needs during the menopause.

For more information on how RHL Solicitors is taking a zero-tolerance approach to menopause-related discrimination, or the employment opportunities that we have available, get in touch today.