Minister Kemi Badenoch clashes with MPs over menopause law
Equalities Minister Kemi Badenoch has rejected calls to make it illegal to discriminate against people going through the menopause. A committee of MPs is demanding that menopause be made a “protected characteristic” under equalities law.
Ms Badenoch said people asked for “many things” to be protected in law such as “carers, single people, having ginger hair, being short”. But the government would not be changing the legislation, she told MPs. She argued that women could use existing provisions in the Equalities Act 2010 to bring discrimination cases.
“The menopause can be dealt with alongside three existing ones – age, sex, and disability – because it is a health condition and many disabilities are health conditions. We have the laws in place. The government has already rejected a women and equalities committee report calling for a consultation on making menopause a protected characteristic – and on trialling “menopause leave” in England.
Ms Badenoch said that decision had been made by her predecessor Maria Miller, but she agreed with it.
In heated exchanges with fellow Conservative MP and committee chair Caroline Nokes, she said there was “no point” in a consultation because the government was “not bringing in new protected characteristics”.
“Launching a consultation on something that we are not going to do would not be a good use of time or resources,” she told Ms Nokes.
The minister, who is also business secretary, said “loads of people” wanted to use equalities law as “a tool for different personal agendas and interests”. It’s not what it is there for. it is anti-discrimination legislation as a shield to protect people who are at risk of serious discrimination.”
Ms Badenoch also rejected the idea of a pilot for menopause leave, saying it was not the job of the government to do something that employers could do anyway. “I do not think creating another pilot on more leave is what is going to help women who have the menopause,” she told the committee.
In another ill-tempered exchange, Ms Nokes questioned the minister on whether menopause could be classed as a disability in discrimination cases.
“The menopause is not a disability, however a particular woman’s experience of the menopause which can be a health condition, can be so extreme as to qualify for a disability,” the minister said.
Ms Badenoch also clashed with Labour’s Carolyn Harris, accusing her speaking from a left-wing perspective and asking the MP not to “barrack” her as she gave her answers. Ms Harris said her politics had absolutely nothing to do with the menopause debate and it was a politically mixed committee.