Timpson praised for offering to pay for HRT prescriptions for staff

But campaigners say menopause drugs should be free in England as they are in Scotland and Wales

The high street chain Timpson has been praised for offering to pay for hormone replacement therapy (HRT) prescriptions for staff going through the menopause.

MPs and charities welcomed the move, describing it as “brilliant”, although they said prescriptions in England for such drugs should be free as they are in Scotland and Wales.

The offer comes as a bill by the Labour MP Carolyn Harris to abolish charges for hormone replacement therapy is due to be heard in parliament on 29 October.

The chief executive of the shoe repair and locksmithing firm, James Timpson, made the announcement on Twitter, saying that from Monday “colleagues can claim on expenses their prescription costs when they are recommended HRT”.

“It’s so important that we support our colleagues going through the menopause,” he said.

The Conservative MP Caroline Nokes, who is chair of the women and equalities select committee, said: “This is brilliant news from Timpson – a company which seems to be leading the way on so many issues at the moment. Hopefully, Carolyn Harris’s private member’s bill will make progress next week and we will see the government recognise the massive impact menopause has on women’s lives.”

She added that “too many women feel unsupported at work during the menopause”.

The government is said to be “interested” in the bill, and Harris has gained cross-party support from dozens of MPs including the Tory grandees Bernard and Anne Jenkin, and Tim Loughton, as well as Labour’s Jess Phillips, Diane Abbott and Sarah Champion.

Harris said she was “delighted” by Timpson’s announcement, which coincided with World Menopause Day. “This is testament to what a fantastic employer they are and how strongly they care about the welfare of their staff,” she said.

“I hope that my private member’s bill will pass through parliament, making HRT products exempt from NHS prescription charges in England, and in turn making this a short-term arrangement. However, this really is a fantastic example to other employers of how they can support their staff through what can be a very difficult period of their lives.”

HRT is a treatment, usually in the form of a daily tablet, that helps ease the symptoms of menopause by replacing the oestrogen and progesterone hormones that a woman’s body no longer produces. Prescriptions are free in Wales and Scotland, but in England, patients pay £9.34 for each item.

Jenny Haskey, the chief executive of The Menopause Charity, said 1.6m sick days were lost every year, with an estimated 900,000 women leaving work entirely due to the impact of the menopause. One in four women who experience menopausal symptoms – many at the top of their career – consider leaving their job. She added that more companies should follow Timpson’s lead.

“However, we firmly believe prescription charges should not be a barrier to women accessing HRT, that is why The Menopause Charity is backing the menopause support bill so that women in England benefit from free prescriptions as they do in Scotland and Wales.”

Mandu Reid, the leader of the Women’s Equality party, said Timpson joined a growing list of organisations such as HarperCollins, Santander and Tesco that are introducing menopause policies that contribute to a more supportive and equitable working environment.

She added that her party wanted to see national, government-backed efforts to “close the gender gap when it comes to healthcare and medical research, and that means better commitment, funding and legislation to ensure women’s experiences are front and centre in women’s healthcare”.


Sarah Marsh

The GuardianTramp

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