Emma Thompson calls for menopause to become protected characteristic in Equality Act

Dame Emma Thompson attends the Inspiration Awards For Women 2023at The Landmark Hotel, on January 20, 2023 in London, England
Emma Thompson has said women need greater "support" during their lifespan. (Getty Images)

Dame Emma Thompson has called for the menopause to become a protected characteristic in the Equality Act.

The actress, 63, told Andrew Marr on LBC that "more" needed to be done to "support women through their lifespan".

She also called a recent campaign to prevent menopause discrimination under the Equality Act a "wonderful idea".

The menopause occurs when periods stop due to lower hormone levels, typically between the ages of 45 and 55, but it can be sometimes younger.

Menopause and perimenopause (when you have symptoms before this point) can cause both physical and mental symptoms that affect everyone differently.

A campaign led by celebrities such as Davina McCall have called for the menopause to be added to the Equality Act's protected legislation.

Mariella Frostrup, MP Carolyn Harris, Penny Lancaster and Davina McCall with protesters outside the Houses of Parliament in London demonstrating against ongoing prescription charges for HRT
Celebrities including Mariella Frostrup, Penny Lancaster and Davina McCall have been campaigning for greater menopause support. (Getty Images)

The law currently only states that you can't discriminate against someone because of age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex or sexual orientation.

This means those with menopausal symptoms who have received unfair treatment (or need further support) in the workplace have had to make a claim under an existing protected characteristic, like age or disability, if related.

Adding menopause as a protected characteristic in the Equality Act would make it easier for women to ensure they are being treated fairly at this stage of their lives.

Read more: Kathy Burke considered taking own life during menopause

Thompson said: "The fact of the matter is, what women need or want, or need protection from, or desire has never been at the top of anyone's agenda in any country, in any part of the world until very recently.

"So, it's fantastic that we're having these conversations and really recognising that there are 50% of the population that goes through this enormous change.

She continued: "We haven't got the period thing right. Anyway, you know, there's still tax on tampons. That's ridiculous. It's insane, actually. So, yes, we need to do a lot more to support women through their lifespan.

Read more: Emma Thompson reveals real-life heartbreak behind 'Love Actually' scene

Emma Thompson and Hugh Grant on the set of film
The star, pictured with Hugh Grant in 1995 on the set of Sense and Sensibility, has deemed intimacy coordinators "absolutely essential" for young actresses. (Getty Images)

"And the more we do that, I think the more we will come to understand one another. There really isn't a great deal of discussion I don't think between men and women about their bodies and what happens to their bodies."

Thompson also told Marr that it was "absolutely essential" that intimacy co-ordinators are present to "protect" young actresses.

Read more: Emma Thompson 'not sure how great' sexual revolution was as was 'a bit predatory'

Responding to Sir Ian McKellen's recent suggestion that they ruin the "purity" of theatre, she said: "It’s all very well, if you're a bloke, it's a different kind of thing."

The actress – who has famously appeared in Sense and Sensibility, Nanny McPhee and Love Actually – added that the treatment of women on set can be "absolutely outrageous".

Watch: Emma Thompson says intimacy co-ordinators essential