Case study: Lynskey v Direct Line Insurance Services Ltd
This case serves as a reminder to employers that they need to be aware of the way in which the symptoms of menopause can impact performance and how this should be appropriately managed.
L worked for Direct Line as a tele-sales consultant from 2016 until her resignation in 2022. Initially L had good performance ratings but she started experiencing menopause symptoms which affected her performance. L was diagnosed with a hormone imbalance, depression and low mood and was prescribed antidepressants.
Concerns were raised about L’s conduct on a customer call and she was moved to a less challenging role (with her consent). Initially L worked well in the new role but she gradually came off her anti-depressants, problems emerged, and further customer complaints were made. L was given further training and coaching. In L’s performance review, she was graded as “need for improvement” for the first time, which meant she received no pay rise. L also received a written warning following a disciplinary process.
L was subsequently signed off work due to stress. She was eventually referred to Occupational Health who advised she was likely to be disabled. After 13 weeks L’s discretionary sick pay was withdrawn (although this decision was overturned following a grievance process). L subsequently resigned and brought various claims against her employer.
The Tribunal upheld many of L’s claims for discrimination arising from disability and failure to make reasonable adjustments. L’s “brain fog” and struggle to retain information was a result of her menopause symptoms. This was recorded in L’s performance review and the resulting lack of pay rise was as a consequence of L‘s disability.
Direct Line should have referred L to Occupational Health much earlier, when L’s manager was first told about her menopausal symptoms. Requiring L to meet the same performance standards as other employees who were not disabled put her at a substantial disadvantage. Direct Line should have considered reasonable adjustments such as reduced targets and longer rests between calls.
L was awarded damages of £65,000 and Direct Line was criticised for a lack of compassion and understanding.
This case illustrates the difficulties in managing a disabled employee who is not meeting performance standards. It essential for employers to make early referrals to Occupational Health and ensure appropriate training and support are in place. Adjustments to performance standards should also be considered.
The judgment highlights the growing issue of menopausal discrimination. The menopause is not “automatically” a disability, but where the effect is to have a long term more than trivial effect on normal day to day activities, it can be. Improved training and awareness to understand the impact of menopause and having a dedicated menopause policy can be useful tools to empowering employees and helping them to manage their symptoms.