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As a lawyer specialising in disability rights, last week I had the privilege of presenting at the National Register of Access Consultants Winter Conference 2023 where I shared information about trends in my equality practice.

One of the added values of joining the conference is the insight it gives me into the development of professional design and build standards from experts in inclusive design.

Jean Hewitt, Associate at Buro Happold Inclusive DesignUK and Gov Disability & Access Ambassador for the Built Environment presented information which has an impact on the duty on employers, events and service providers in terms of reasonable adjustments for women, and for disabled people.

The Equality Act 2010 is a law that protects people against discrimination, harassment or victimisation in employment, and as users of private and public services.The nine protected characteristics under the Act are:

  • Age
  • Disability
  • Gender reassignment
  • Marriage and civil partnership
  • Pregnancy and maternity
  • Race
  • Religion or belief
  • Sex
  • Sexual orientation

The first part of Jean’s presentation covered the new British Standard BS 30416 Menstrual and Menopausal Health in the Workplace 2023 which is applicable to all sectors and all sizes of businesses. Clearly this applies to women and comes within the Sex protected characteristic

It applies to women entering menopause as well as those experiencing menopause under the phrase Peri-Menopause and fixes obligations both in terms of standards but in my view, also in line with the anticipatory duty to make reasonable adjustments.

The existence of official Government guidance imputes knowledge on an employer or service provider. There may be a short time allowed by the courts for guidance to filter down into practical solutions but that period of grace will depend upon the size of the organisation and will be case specific.

In short, work and publically accessible spaces must be designed to recognise the need for temperature control and thermal comfort. There should be :

  • ease of access to cooler areas in a building;
  • access to cool drinking water, warm beverages/snacks;
    (some medication might need to be taken with food);
  • somewhere private for medication, treatment or management of symptoms;
  • Identified quieter zones/floors for focused work;
  • quiet /restorative rooms for short-term recuperation, rest
    and management of symptoms;

This is also within the bounds of earlier guidance  within BSI PAS 6463 Design for the Mind – Neurodiversity and the Built Environment 2022.

The standards also reiterate the need for accessible sanitary and welfare facilities which help with making work and public spaces inclusive for Perio-Menopausal women and disabled people.

So what does this mean? If you are a service provider or an employer you should be taking immediate steps to assess what you can be doing to assist your staff and customers in line with Sex and Disability characteristics, and considering what you can do to make reasonable adjustments in the spaces you have control. You may need expert assistance from someone like Jean or another accredited expert at NRAC.

If you are a person affected by refusals to make adjustments when requested or at spaces which don’t comply with these measures then you may have grounds for complaint, with the benefit of the protection of the Equality Act and the financial and non-financial remedies that come with it.

For further information on this please contact Chris Fry.

Chris Fry – Disability Rights

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