Can You be Signed off Work With Menopause? Know Your Rights

Last updated 05.02.2024 | by Sabrina Johnson | 7 Minutes Read

This article has been reviewed and fact checked by Dr. Karen Pike, a senior physician administrator and board-certified emergency room doctor actively working in northern California. Read more at our medical disclaimer page.


Menopause can bring both physical and mental symptoms, and when it starts to disrupt your work life, things become stressful. Hot flashes interrupt meetings, and brain fog makes deadlines a blur. Sound familiar, right?

Many menopausal women, including me, have experienced similar problems.

Symptoms of menopause severely impact your work life. But there are ways to navigate this transition and manage your symptoms so you can continue to thrive in your career. But the big question is: can you signed off work with menopause?

In this blog, I will answer this question in detail. I will discuss menopause, sick leave, legal rights, protection related to menopause, and some additional tips. Stay with me throughout to learn more on the topic.

Menopause and Sick Leave

Menopause is the natural transition in a woman’s life when their periods stop and fertility ends. This transition causes a variety of symptoms, ranging from mild, manageable, severe, and debilitating. It impacts a woman’s ability to work effectively.

Working women have to manage their daily work as well as menopause simultaneously. But if the symptoms are severe, it becomes difficult to handle everything at once. They can ask for sick leave during this phase, so let’s know about menopause and sick leave:

Severity Matters

You must understand that menopause itself isn’t typically a reason for sick leave. The symptoms of each woman vary from mild to severe. Less and mild symptoms can be managed, but some women experience severe symptoms that significantly impact their well-being and ability to perform their job duties. These symptoms include:

  • Hot flashes and night sweats which can lead to fatigue and difficulty concentrating 
  • Brain fog that can impact memory and decision-making
  • Anxiety, depression, and mood swings. It affects the emotional well-being and focus of menopausal women 
  • Difficulty sleeping, which leads to exhaustion and reduced productivity
  • Physical discomfort like joint pain, body aches, and headaches that hinder work performance

There are many other symptoms that can affect a woman’s health during the menopausal stage.

Doctor’s Note and Communication

If the menopausal symptoms are severe enough to hamper your work, you should consult your doctor and get a medical note. The document should outline all the specific symptoms you’re experiencing, their impact on your work, and the recommended limitations or adjustments (if needed).

It is essential to be honest and open with your doctor about how the specific symptoms are affecting your work. The detailed information will help them create a more accurate and helpful note that you can show your employer.

When to Take Sick Leave

There is no need to take sick leave if your symptoms are temporary and manageable with medication and self-care.  But for severe and unpredictable flare-ups, taking sick leave is necessary. Sick leave will allow you to rest and manage symptoms so you can return to work feeling better.

For long-term issues related to menopause, you should discuss with your employer before resorting to extended sick leave.

With medical advice and proper utilization of sick leave, it is possible to manage menopause effectively in the workplace.

Legal Rights and Protections

Under most employment laws, menopause isn’t a protected characteristic. No particular law has been created that considers menopause a serious problem and grants leaves and adjustments accordingly. Women experiencing severe symptoms may have legal rights under other categories. Let’s see some of the key protections:

1. Protection from Discrimination

Menopause isn’t a specific category, but women might get protection under existing anti-discrimination laws based on the following:

  • Sex Discrimination: If any woman experiences unequal treatment compared to male colleagues due to menopausal symptoms, they are allowed to have a case. For example, a woman is denied flexible work arrangements, but it is granted to a male colleague with similar scheduling needs. This comes under sex discrimination, and women can raise a complaint regarding this.
  • Age Discrimination: The menopause symptoms begin when you are in middle age. If women receive negative treatment or have to go through performance evaluations linked to their age and menopausal symptoms, it comes under age discrimination.
  • Disability Discrimination: This is the most relevant among others. If your menopausal symptoms are severe and long-lasting (a year or more) and significantly impact your daily activities and work performance, they might be considered a disability under the law. This grants you protection from discrimination, and your employer must consider reasonable adjustments that align with your needs.

2. Reasonable Adjustments

If your menopausal symptoms are deemed a disability, your employer is legally obliged to consider ‘reasonable adjustments’ to help you continue working effectively. These adjustments should be made in order to address your specific needs. Some examples are flexible working arrangements, changes to the work environment, altered workload or duties, frequent additional breaks, etc.

Employers have the legal duty to ensure the health and safety of their employees in the workplace. This also includes any potential condition that worsens due to symptoms of menopause.

Tips for Managing Menopause at Work

Menopause can disrupt your work life, but the right strategies can help you manage it effectively. Have a look at the tips given below to manage menopause at work:

Communicate

Do not hesitate to discuss your menopausal symptoms with your employer. Have an honest and open conversation and explain the challenges you’re facing on a daily basis. Most employers are understanding and willing to accommodate your reasonable requests, especially if they help maintain your productivity and well-being. Both of you can explore potential solutions together.

You can also share your experiences with a trusted colleague for emotional support, understanding, and helpful advice.

Utilize Available Resources

You can talk to the human resource department, which is a perfect place to navigate company policies and procedures related to menopause. The team can provide guidance on how to request reasonable adjustments and access employee assistance programs (EAP) or leave options. Many companies offer confidential EAPs to provide counseling, support groups, and other resources helpful to manage menopause and work life.

Self-Care

Self-care is essential to navigate the menopause phase. Maintain a healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, which help to improve energy levels and overall well-being. 

Regular exercise also helps to manage symptoms. Stress is another reason that can worsen the condition. Stress management techniques such as meditation, yoga, and breathing exercises can help reduce stress. 

Women going through menopause should drink plenty of water throughout the day as it helps to regulate body temperature and improve sleep. 

Wear comfortable clothes that allow you to adjust according to the temperature fluctuations. Follow a to-do list and break down large projects into smaller steps to reduce stress and improve concentration.

FAQs

What can I do to prevent menopausal symptoms at work?

There is nothing you can do to prevent menopause, but there are ways to manage its symptoms. Some helpful methods include maintaining a healthy lifestyle, having a balanced diet, doing regular exercise, and using stress management techniques. Talk to your employer about flexible working arrangements that suit your needs.

What should I do if my employer doesn’t understand about my menopause symptoms?

Try to have an honest and open conversation and explain all the challenges you’re facing due to menopause. Suggest possible solutions that will help you to manage your work. You can also talk to the HR department and other organizations that advocate for women’s health in the workplace.

Can menopause affect my job security?

No, menopause shouldn’t affect your job security. However, if the symptoms are severe and impact your work performance but your employer is not granting reasonable adjustments, you should understand your legal rights and seek guidance from relevant employment resources and organizations.

Conclusion

Menopause should not be taken lightly, as it can cause severe symptoms which might affect your health and work life. However, the symptoms can be controlled by implementing various methods in your lifestyle. 

Besides this, it is essential to discuss these symptoms with your employer so you can find some solutions to manage your daily tasks properly.

Author

  • Sabrina Johnson

    Meet Sabrina Johnson, a compassionate author and a seasoned expert in Obstetrics and Gynecology. She is a driving force behind Simply Menopause, where her extensive medical knowledge and empathetic nature come together to empower women in their menopausal journey. Sabrina offers culturally sensitive guidance and support through her approachable writing, making her a trusted friend on the path to menopause wellness.