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Government Announcements: Menopause in the Workplace and Fire
and Rehire Practices
Menopause in the Worplace
Back in July 2022 the Women and Equalities Committee (WEC)
issued their recommendations following an inquiry into Menopause
and the workplace. The inquiry resulted in several recommendations
being made for the government to consider.
Some of the key recommendations made by the WEC were:
- Specific menopause leave;
- Greater flexibility on sickness policy; and
- Making menopause a protected characteristic.
When making the proposal, the WEC expressed that implementing
these proposals would go a long way to stop women from being forced
out of the workplace by insensitive and rigid work policies.
Earlier this week, the government issued their highly
anticipated response to the inquiry.
Following their consultation, the government has rejected the
vast majority of proposals made by the committee. They stated,
“we are concerned that specific menopause leave may be
counterproductive to achieving this goal”. It also vetoed the
proposal to make menopause a ‘protected characteristic’
under the Equality Act and confirmed they will not hold a further
consultation on this point due to concerns it could discriminate
against men suffering from long term medical conditions.
The government has agreed that employers should be encouraged to
put in place workplace menopause policies, accept ‘in
principle’ the recommendations to launch a public health
campaign around menopause and appoint a menopause ambassador to
monitor the progress made by businesses in improving working
conditions for employees during menopause.
This government’s response has been heavily criticised and
condemned by the WEC who has said the government has missed the
opportunity to protect a vast number of working individuals. The
WEC has also commented that it is not clear how making menopause a
protected characteristic could be discriminatory to men with
long-term health conditions, if one compares it to whether the
pregnancy discrimination provisions discriminate against men. The
WEC stated “menopause is an inevitable part of all
women’s life course, as opposed to a form of long-term ill
Whilst further progress is clearly needed in this area, based
upon the government’s current response, we are unlikely to
see any significant developments in the near future.
Changing terms of employment – Firing and Re-hiring?
This week the government has also published the draft Statutory
Code of Practice on the “Dismissal and Re-engagement”
(the Code) of employees. The Code remains in draft and under
consultation which is due to close on 18 April 2023.
The Code has been prepared following significant pressure being
put on the government regarding “fire and rehire”
practices following the wide scale dismissals of P&O employees
Fire and rehire
Dismissal and re-engagement, more commonly known as firing and
rehiring is a practice some employers adopt to make changes to the
terms of employment. Where an employee does not agree to the
changes, their employment is terminated and they are offered new
employment on the new, and usually less favourable, terms.
The Draft Code
The Code has been drafted with a view to avoid potential
conflicts between employers, employees, and trade unions, and
provide guidance on managing and resolving any conflicts that may
arise. The Code does not prohibit the fire and rehire practice,
however, it makes it clear that such steps should be taken only as
a last resort where there is legitimate business reasons to do
The Code sets out the responsibilities employers have when
seeking to change the terms of employment, including the need to
consult in a “fair and transparent way”. It provides
recommendations about the type of information that the employers
should consider sharing with the employees such as the nature of
the changes, the possible effect on relevant employees and the
timeframe for implementation of those changes.
In the event employers decide to unilaterally implement new
terms or to fire and rehire, the Code asks employers to re-examine
its business strategy against the serious consequences of the
changes, and whether this could have a disproportionate impact on a
specific group of employees sharing a protected characteristic.
The Code does not necessarily introduce particularly new
practices and reflects the steps most employers should be taking as
a matter of best practice. However, it does introduce
sanctions for failing to follow the Code. When dealing with an
Unfair Dismissal claim, an Employment Tribunal will be able to
apply an uplift of up to 25% of the compensation awarded if there
is an unreasonable failure to follow the Code.
The Code is a positive step for employers in encouraging them to
take the right approach to preserving their reputation and
industrial relations while making decisions for the economic
benefit of the business. It is also a welcome development for
employees as it aids them in making informed decisions based on the
impacts of the changes and allows them to resist or delay any
changes that adversely affect them.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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