JENNI MURRAY: Suing over the menopause will make the workplace tougher for the rest of us
Skielik, all anyone can talk about is that once taboo subject — the menopause. After celebrities from Davina McCall to Jo Whiley shared their very personal experiences, we now have women battling the mistaken assumption that the onset of hot flushes, the occasional brain fog or feeling low from time to time renders you unfit for the workplace.
According to figures from HM Courts & Tribunals Service, there were five employment tribunal cases citing menopause as the reason for complaint in the last nine months of 2018, rising to ten in the first six months of 2021.
In one case in Scotland, a woman won £28,000 when she claimed her boss would humiliate her in front of colleagues and called her a dinosaur in front of customers in relation to her going through the menopause. In 'n ander voorbeeld, a social worker brought a case against Leicester City Council, claiming unfair dismissal as her depressie and anxiety during the menopause had been ignored.
Jenni Murray says suing over the menopause is setting midlife women apart from the rest of the workplace (lêer beeld)
Winning such a case may sound like a great result, but I’m not so sure women are doing themselves any favours. What they are doing is setting themselves — and other midlife women — apart from the rest of the workforce.
Employers must be terrified that they may put a foot wrong and end up with an expensive court case. Compensation of £28,000 sounds like a lot, but success in tribunal has often been found to be a Pyrrhic victory.
Other possible employers might be reluctant to take on a woman who has taken her previous one to court, and it has been shown to be difficult generally for women in this age group to find a new job.
The Centre for Ageing Better has revealed more than a third of jobless over-50s believe ageism is preventing their return to work.
It is surely not worth losing a job you love and are good at, your salary and your pension, just for the satisfaction of proving the boys’ banter about your hot flush was upsetting and inappropriate.
Jenni (op die foto) claims women are all too often the more loyal, hard-working and undervalued in any workplace — menopausal or not
If the fear of compensation claims persuades employers to learn more about what women can go through at this time of life and they teach themselves — and the men they employ — that insulting or undervaluing a woman because of a natural and inevitable condition is sex discrimination and against the law, all very well. Maar, as someone who has been there and survived the menopause, I recommend caution.
It is not wise to draw attention to the fact that there’s a short period in your working life when you might not be as sassy and sharp as usual. Employers have long found excuses not to hire us.
Rock-solid laws prevent any questions about plans to have children, but there are still women who lose their jobs because they are pregnant. The Equality and Human Rights Commission puts the number pushed out because of pregnancy or maternity leave at 54,000 n jaar. In middle age, in a senior position doing work you love, why give employers another reason to think taking on a woman will make life difficult and expensive?
The menopause does not last for very long. Some sail through with no symptoms at all, some suffer very mildly and others rely on HRT. The number of menopausal women who might feel too rotten to work is vanishingly small. Stick it out is my advice. Women are all too often the more loyal, hard-working and undervalued in any workplace — menopausal or not.
My life with a furry psychopath
Jenni said her cat is outrageously affectionate one minute and an angry, clawing, biting monster the next
There was no need to carry out the new Puss Personality Test to establish whether or not I have given a home to a psychopath. There’s no doubt in my mind that Suu is.
She’s called Suu after Aung San Suu Kyi because she’s Burmese.
She’s beautiful and she knows it. She’s outrageously affectionate one minute and an angry, clawing, biting monster the next. She rockets around the house encouraging the dogs to chase her, stops on a sixpence, turns and lashes out at them mercilessly, and heaven help any poor mouse she brings in and tortures.
But is she a psychopath or just being a cat? And why do I love her so much? Unanswerable questions, I fear.
I’m so bored by Dan the Strictly ironing board
Jenni argues that Dan Walker doesn’t dance at all on Strictly, instead he marches round the floor like an animated ironing board. Op die foto: Dan with pro dance partner Nadiya Bychkova
Every week I watch Strictly and every week I ask myself: ‘Why Dan?’ Time and time again some brilliant dancers have been voted off while Dan Walker lets out a huge sigh of relief that he has made it through by the skin of his teeth.
Now the BBC presenter (links, with pro dance partner Nadiya Bychkova) is into the quarter-final which bouncy young Tilly Ramsay and her partner Nikita deserved to reach. Both she and Dan have progressed from a point where neither knew the first thing about dancing, but Tilly has learned to do it properly.
Dan, who I’m sure is very nice, doesn’t dance at all. He marches round the floor like an animated ironing board. Not fair!
Allow women who miscarry some dignity
What a humane decision by the Scottish government to agree to special units for women who have experienced miscarriage.
It is something I argued for many years ago when I had a traumatic ectopic pregnancy in 1981, losing my foetus which had become lodged in a fallopian tube. My recovery from surgery in the Princess Anne maternity unit in Southampton could not have been more thoughtlessly designed.
Together with new mothers learning to breastfeed their babies, I lay in a ward alongside a woman undergoing a new fertility treatment in her desperation to become a mother. On my other side was a 14-year-old in an advanced stage of pregnancy who was to have an abortion. She hadn’t told her mother, so I and the woman having fertility treatment, in the absence of attentive nurses, sat through the night at her side as she laboured to abort her foetus.
It was a cruel practice, and I can’t believe it has taken 40 years for it to be recognised as such.