51% of the population will experience menopause. It is a normal, natural, and inevitable part of ageing. Yet for too long, too many people experiencing menopause have struggled with societal stigma, inadequate diagnosis and treatment, workplace detriment and discrimination. This is not normal, nor should we see it as inevitable.
We are heartened to see things are changing, not least with World Menopause Day being openly and frankly debated in Parliament last year. But there is still a long way to go, and the Government must not lose focus.
There is still considerable stigma around menopause, particularly for certain groups such as young women, those from different ethnic minority backgrounds and for LGBT+ people. Women’s pain and suffering in relation to menopause symptoms has been normalised. They are told they should simply ‘live with it’. Cost and supply issues with Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) pose serious barriers to many seeking to manage their symptoms, and many women have no faith in their GP to diagnose accurately or provide effective treatment.
To tackle this, we want to see a major public health campaign and targeted communications to GPs on changes to HRT prescriptions. We also call on the Government to commit to cutting the cost of HRT, by scrapping dual prescription charges for oestrogen and progesterone. Menopause must be made a mandatory aspect of continuing professional development requirements for GPs and there should be a menopause specialist or specialist service in every Clinical Commissioning Group area by 2024.
Women of menopausal age are the fastest growing group in the workforce and are staying in work for longer than ever before. Yet these experienced and skilled role models often receive little support with menopause symptoms. As a result, some cut back their hours or responsibilities. Others leave work altogether. We call on the Government to lead the way for businesses by appointing a Menopause Ambassador who will champion good practice. We want to see the Government producing model menopause policies, and trialling specific menopause leave so that women are not forced out of work by insensitive and rigid sickness policies.
The current law does not serve or protect menopausal women. There is poor employer awareness of both health and safety and equality law relating to menopause. More fundamentally, the law does not offer proper redress to those who suffer menopause related discrimination. Our recommendations for employers are designed to ensure fewer women need legal redress. However, those who do need to rely on the law need, and deserve, a better safety net. We call on the Government to commence section 14 of the Equality Act 2010 to allow dual discrimination claims based on more than one protected characteristic. We also want the Government to urgently consult on making menopause a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010.
Menopause has been ignored and hidden away for too long. There is nothing shameful about women’s health, or about getting older. Supporting those experiencing menopause makes sense for individuals, for the economy and for society.