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Ministers have rejected a proposal from MPs to introduce “menopause leave” pilots in England, arguing it could be “counterproductive”.

It also dismissed a recommendation to make menopause a protected characteristic under the Equality Act.

The suggestions came from the Women and Equalities Committee, which accused ministers of making “glacial progress” on menopause support.

The government insisted it had an “ambitious” plan to improve help.

In July 2022, the committee published a report which warned that the impact of menopause was causing the UK economy to “haemorrhage talent”.

It said a lack of support was pushing women out of work and made 12 recommendations aimed at giving working women more rights.

However, in its response to the report, published on Tuesday, the government rejected outright five of the committee’s proposals, including a recommendation for the government to work with a large public sector employer to “develop and pilot a specific menopause leave policy”.

In its report, the cross-party group of MPs argued this could stop women being “forced out of work by insensitive and rigid sickness policies”.

The government said it was focused on encouraging employers to implement workplace menopause policies, adding: “We are concerned that specific menopause leave may be counterproductive to achieving this goal.”

It also said it would not launch a consultation on amending the Equality Act to introduce a new protected characteristic of menopause “including a duty to provide reasonable adjustments for menopausal employees”.

The government expressed concern that such a move could have “unintended consequences which may inadvertently create new forms of discrimination, for example, discrimination risks towards men suffering from from long term medical conditions or eroding existing protections.”

Ministers accepted “in principle” the committee’s recommendations to launch a public health campaign around menopause and to appoint a menopause ambassador to monitor progress made by businesses in this area.

However, the Conservative chair of the committee Caroline Nokes condemned the government’s overall response as “a missed opportunity to protect vast numbers of talented and experienced women from leaving the workforce, and leaves me unconvinced that menopause is a government priority.

“For too long women have faced stigma, shame and dismissive attitudes when it comes to menopause.

“The evidence to our inquiry was crystal clear that urgent action was needed across healthcare and work settings to properly address women’s needs, yet government progress has been glacial and its response complacent.”

A government spokesperson rejected accusations of complacency arguing it had “put women’s health at the top of the agenda as part of the first-ever women’s health strategy for England”.

“We are implementing an ambitious programme of work with the NHS to improve menopause care so all women can access the support they need.”

According to a previous British Menopause Society survey, 45% of women indicated they felt their menopause symptoms had a negative impact on their work.

Source: BBC

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