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The tribunal has held in the case of Johnson v Bronzeshield Lifting that the employer discriminated against an employee who wanted to adjust her work pattern to help her cope with her menopausal symptoms and caring responsibilities.

The claimant worked as an administrator for Bronzeshield Lifting, and had done so since 1995. In 2018 she developed menopausal symptoms which included low mood, anxiety, low self-esteem and brain fog. These symptoms, which made it harder for her to manage the usual stresses of daily life, coincided with caring responsibilities for her parents and another relative. She asked to change her contractual hours to cope with what she termed an "old lady's disease", so that she had Wednesdays off and worked an hour longer on the other days. A 10-month trial period was agreed and, shortly before it ended, the claimant made a formal request to change her hours again. She asked to take Fridays rather than Wednesdays off and to take her lunch break at the end of the working day to allow her to leave early. She said that she needed these changes to help with her elderly parents and to cope with "menopause issues".

A meeting took place to discuss her request, during which Bronzeshield said that Friday was its busiest day. It also explained that it was legally required to give her a break after six hours, so couldn’t agree to her taking her break at the end of the day. When her request was turned down, the claimant resigned. Bronzeshield offered her a "cooling down" period to give her time to reflect on her decision and suggested that she appeal against the company's rejection of her flexible working application. She did so, but her appeal was rejected so she brought a claim for constructive dismissal and a claim that she had been discriminated against because of her menopausal symptoms, which she argued were a disability.

Bronzeshield accepted that the claimant was suffering from a disability. The tribunal found that the claimant had mentioned menopause in her flexible working application but did not explain why she needed the work pattern she had requested to cope with it. When determining her application, the director who had considered it ignored what the claimant had said about menopause. In giving evidence he admitted that if the respondent had presented with a different disability (such as cancer) he would have asked her what support she needed when considering a request to work the same pattern. The tribunal found that this was direct disability discrimination, but that the decision to turn down her request was not. This was on the basis that Bronzeshield's decision had nothing to do with her disability; it needed an administrator to work on Fridays and would have refused someone making the same request who didn't have her disability. However, the claimant's constructive dismissal claim succeeded as the tribunal found that Bronzeshield had breached the implied term of trust and confidence by failing to consider the impact of the claimant's menopause.

Take note: The decision in Johnson shows the importance of supporting those experiencing menopausal symptoms and being aware that these symptoms may (although they won't always) amount to a disability, in which case the duty to make reasonable adjustments will arise.