The case of Lynskey v Direct Line Insurance Services Ltd has breached new ground in holding that the failure of an employer to make reasonable adjustments for a menopausal employee constituted disability discrimination.
Maxine Lynskey had been employed by Direct Line since 2016. In 2019 she developed symptoms of the menopause including low mood, anxiety, brain fog and difficulty concentrating. She informed her manager of her symptoms and the effect it was having on her work.
As a result of this she was transferred to a different role internally in June 2020 with the aim of reducing pressure. However, this move would later be considered a “financial loss for the claimant”. In her new role, Ms Lynskey struggled to achieve targets, maintain high performance and eventually was told she would not receive a pay rise in January 2021. Her employer issued her with a warning for poor performance and invoked the formal disciplinary process in April 2021.
Ms Lynskey resigned in 2022 and brought claims against Direct Line for constructive dismissal, sex discrimination and age discrimination. These claims were not upheld by the Employment Tribunal. However, she was successful in her additional claims of a failure to make reasonable adjustments and discrimination arising from disability.
This case has cemented the proposition that menopausal symptoms can amount to a disability. An employer is therefore under a duty to make reasonable adjustments for an employee if it knows or is reasonably expected to know that the individual is likely to be at a substantial disadvantage due to their disability. Ms Lynskey claimed that she was at a disadvantage because her performance standards were being compared to her colleagues who did not experience symptoms of the menopause.
The Tribunal held that Direct Line knew or reasonably should have known that Ms Lynskey was disabled. Therefore, she was treated unfavourably when her performance was assessed without taking into account her disability and reasonable adjustments were not made.
The Tribunal found that no less than eight suggested adjustments could have been made to help her perform better in her role. The disciplinary warning also constituted unfavourable treatment because her health was not considered and the warning arose as a consequence of her disability.
Direct Line was ordered to pay Ms Lynskey almost £65,000 in compensation, including £23,000 for injury to feelings and £30,000 for loss of past and future earnings.
This case highlights how important reasonable adjustments for employees are and raises awareness on the impact that the menopause can have on daily life. Employers have been warned.