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Daily Mirror
Daily Mirror
Anna Morell

Dis Life: 'Putting the "men" in 'menopause' at the expense of disability rights'

I’m perimenopausal. I’m on the slippery decade long slope of being called mad, emotional, unreasonable, incompetent and everything else that also goes along with pregnancy and early years motherhood.

Women don’t have it great in the gynae health support stakes in terms of society at large. Stick disability in the mix, and it’s going to be a fun old ride towards cronehood. But I’ve got my broomstick, and I’m ready for it. Bring it on.

This is a disability column. So bear with. We’re going to get there.

Menopause is a rite of passage for around half of all people in our society. And it brings with it specific challenges which are given pretty much zero support, especially in the workplace.

Being flooded with specific hormones for a significant period of life is a specific characteristic of physical biology for women and some trans men.

But a right to take leave if those hormones are tipping over into a need for better self care, health care or even social care has been rejected by Ministers. As has menopause to be enshrined as a protected characteristic under the Equality Act.

A protected characteristic is something which it is illegal to discriminate against under the Equality Act. The current list is: age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex, and sexual orientation. Disability. See – told you we’d get there.

Menopause leave could 'discriminate against men'

The reason menopause isn’t going to be added is because such a move might have: "Unintended consequences which may inadvertently create new forms of discrimination, for example, discrimination risks towards men suffering from long term medical conditions or eroding existing protections."

You what now? Let my hormone-addled mind parse this. People whose health is adversely affected by hormones at a specific life juncture who need support enshrined in law because there is currently a total lack of willing in society and the workplace to make allowances for the physical, mental and emotional changes which come as a result of menopause cannot have those rights in law, because it could lead to discrimination risks for “men suffering from long term medical conditions”?

The right to take menopause leave should be enshrined in law, Anna Morell argues (stock image) (Getty Images/Collection Mix: Subjects RF)

Those long term medical conditions which would be currently enshrined as disabilities and therefore already a protected characteristic under the Equality Act, which has been in force for well over a decade?

Is the government basically saying, in the most backhanded way possible, that the Equality Act isn’t enforced in a meaningful way, or that it’s a toothless piece of legislation?

Disabled people know this. We know it’s hard and exhausting to bring about cases to protect our rights.

Some people, like the brilliant Doug Paulley, do just this, bringing a steady stream of well-reasoned legal arguments to change things around daily injustices, from lack of access to shops and public places, to the need for a protected wheelchair space on buses (thank Doug!)

But for most of us, it’s a fight too far. It’s expensive and exhausting. The best we can do is remind employers, shopkeepers, and bus drivers that they have to change things up for us by law. And we do. And sometimes they listen.

So should we not introduce protections for other people who might need them? Or should we introduce those protections and beef up the existing ones, and their enforcement, to ensure that the fifth of the population which is disabled, and the fifty-odd per cent which are or will be menopausal, are protected and properly supported in law? Just a hormone-addled thought…

Anna Morell works for Disability Rights UK – the UK’s leading organisation led by, run by, and working for Disabled people.

It works with Disabled People’s Organisations and Government across the UK to influence regional and national change for better rights, benefits, quality of life and economic opportunities for Disabled people.

Find out more about DR UK here and contact DR UK here.

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