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The impact is causing the UK economy to “haemorrhage talent” and widen the gender pay gap, they say. In a new report, the cross-party Women and Equalities Committee calls on the Government to legally introduce menopause as a protected characteristic.

It also wants the Equality Act to be amended to include a duty for employers to provide reasonable adjustments for menopausal employees.

The MPs also urge the Government to remove dual prescription charges for oestrogen and progesterone as part of Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) nationwide, replacing it with a single charge for all women.

The average age of menopause is 51, with perimenopause often starting years earlier.

With 4.5 million women aged 50-64 currently in employment, the report emphasises the scale of the problem facing “individuals, the economy and society”.

Women experiencing at least one problematic menopausal symptom are 43 percent more likely to have left their jobs by the age of 55 than those experiencing no severe symptoms, while research by BUPA shows that 900,000 women experiencing the menopause have left work.

Significant progress could be made to reduce the flow of women forced out of work, the report argues, by appointing a new Menopause Ambassador.

The report also addresses the significant barriers women face in obtaining an initial diagnosis of menopause or perimenopause.

The current postcode lottery determining access to specialist care is, say MPs, “unacceptable”, and necessitates a specialist menopause service in every Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG).

Chair of the Women and Equalities Committee, Caroline Nokes, said:

“Menopause is inevitable. The steady haemorrhage of talented women from our workforce, however, is not. Stigma, shame and dismissive cultures can, and must, be dismantled.

“It is imperative that we build workplaces- and a society- which not only supports those going through the menopause, but encourages some of the most experienced and skilled workers in our economy to thrive.

“The omission of menopause as a protected characteristic under the Equality Act is no longer tenable, given that 51% of the population will experience menopause. We were shocked to hear that many women have to demonstrate their menopausal symptoms amount to a disability, to get redress. Our Committee is calling on the Government to make menopause a protected characteristic in its own right.

“We must facilitate a healthcare system which recognises and treats menopause symptoms. Too many women are dismissed when coming forward with symptoms and too many women are unable to access the care and medication they need. It is easily within the Government’s power to remove the financial and regional barriers to doing so. The inclusion of menopause as a priority area in the newly published Women’s Health Strategy is very welcome.

“But we must go further and faster. Menopausal women have been mocked and maligned for too long. It is time that the Government seizes the opportunity to enact change. It is time to support, and celebrate, these women.”