Can the menopause be a disability?
The symptoms of it can be – in certain circumstances – according to the Glasgow tribunal in Ms M Davies v Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service.
Ms Davies, a court officer for the Scottish Courts and Tribunal Service (SCTS), had been suffering from extensive medical problems related to the menopause. She was prescribed medication which required to be dissolved in water.
On one occasion, after returning from an adjournment, she noticed that a water jug on her table had been emptied. Ms Davies could not remember if this contained her medication, and became concerned that two men in the public area of the court were drinking her water. Ms Davies informed the men of this, one of whom “launched into a rant” as a result.
A health and safety investigation was launched and it was later determined that the water didn’t contain the medication. Nevertheless, Ms Davies was dismissed for gross misconduct as a result of this incident, the SCTS stating that Ms Davies knowingly misled the two men and had failed to follow the SCTS’s “values and behaviours”.
She brought a claim against her employer. The tribunal found that Ms Davies had been unfairly dismissed, and her dismissal was because of something arising in consequence of her disability. She was awarded £19,000, £5,000 of which was for injury to feelings for disability discrimination, and was also given her job back.
The menopause does not of itself amount to a disability but the physiological or physical consequences of going through it can do. There is no discussion in the judgement around the circumstances in which someone suffering from medical problems as a result of the menopause will be disabled. To meet the definition in the Equality Act, the symptoms must have a ‘substantial and long-term adverse effect on the ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities’.
Please get in touch with your usual Brodies’ contact if you would like to discuss any aspect of disability discrimination in the workplace.