international employment law firm alliance L&E Global
United Kingdom

UK: Disability discrimination: Menopausal symptoms

Ms Rooney worked as a council childcare social worker. She suffered menopausal symptoms, including hot flushes and sweating, palpitations and anxiety, night sweats and sleep disturbance, fatigue, poor concentration, urinary problems and headaches. When the council referred her to occupational health, she asked for a female doctor but was told there were none available. Ms Rooney went off sick and the council subsequently issued her with a written warning under its absence management procedure. She later resigned.

Ms Rooney brought various claims, including for disability discrimination. The tribunal held that her menopausal symptoms did not amount to a disability. She appealed to the EAT.

In the EAT’s view, the tribunal’s conclusion that Ms Rooney did not have a physical impairment, or that any impairment was not longstanding, was inconsistent with the description she had given of her menopausal symptoms. The EAT therefore allowed her appeal and remitted the issue of whether she was disabled to the tribunal.

Key Action Points for Human Resources and In-house Counsel

Menopausal symptoms may amount to a disability and will do so where they have a substantial and long-term adverse effect on the individual’s ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.  Care therefore needs to be taken in properly assessing in any particular case if the symptoms meet the statutory test.

The recommendations of the Women and Equalities Committee’s inquiry are awaited. These are expected to include whether further legislation is required to adequately protect menopausal women from discrimination at work.

Rooney v Leicester City Council