Is the menopause a disability? According to one employment tribunal, the symptoms of it certainly can be.
Mandy Davies had worked for the Scottish Court and Tribunal Service (SCTS) for 20 years but was sacked last year for gross misconduct, on the grounds that she did not follow 'the values and behaviours' of the organisation.'
She has now been re-instated and awarded £19,000 after an employment tribunal ruled that she was unfairly dismissed.
The tribunal heard that Ms Davies suffered considerable menopausal symptoms, including heavy bleeding for weeks at a time, anxiety, palpitations and memory loss.
She also became 'severely anaemic', felt 'fuzzy' and experienced other associated symptoms for which she was prescribed a soluble medication which she dissolved into water.
The tribunal heard that before she was sacked she came into work to find two men drinking a jug of water, into which she believed she may have poured her medicine.
She then warned her two male colleagues what might have happened and the tribunal was told one of them launched into a furious rant as a result.
Tracy Worthington, Partner in the employment team at FBC Manby Bowdler, said SCTS dismissed Ms Davies for gross misconduct as a result of the incident, claiming she had deliberately misled the two men.
"This case raises an interesting question over whether symptoms of a condition can result in discrimination even if the condition itself is not considered to be a disability.
"Ms Davies brought a claim against her employer and the tribunal ruled she had been unfairly dismissed, with £5,000 of the £19,000 awarded, for injury to feelings for disability discrimination.
“For a condition to be considered a disability under the Equality Act, the symptoms must have a substantial and long-term effect on the ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.
“The case highlights that the symptoms of the menopause can, in certain circumstances, qualify as a disability and therefore give the employee protection from disability discrimination. For employers this means there needs to be an awareness that such claims can be successfully made and when dealing with ill health or perhaps outbursts as in the above case, an employer needs to be careful not to jump to conclusions that there are no underlying disability issues.
“Now there is no longer a fee to issue in the Employment Tribunal, cases of this nature may become more common. Employers need to consider training staff to be more aware of these type of matters, consider reviewing their employment policies and take legal advice before taking any action especially if dismissal is contemplated regardless if the employee has less than 2 years service.”
If you would like to find out more, please contact Tracy on firstname.lastname@example.org or 01902 392476.