INDEPENDENT 2024-02-22 10:33:45


Bosses could be sued if they fail to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ for menopausal women

Businesses could be sued if they fail to make “reasonable adjustments” for staff going through the menopause, the equalities watchdog has suggested.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) urged bosses to consider how factors such as room temperature and ventilation may affect menopausal women. Employers should also think about providing rest areas or quiet rooms, as well as cooling systems or fans for women experiencing hot flushes, the guidance states.

Women could also be helped by flexible working, including being allowed to work from home, while start and finish times should be varied if a woman has had a bad night’s sleep or it is a hot day.

Relaxing uniform policies or allowing menopausal women to wear cooler clothes could also be a way of helping them, the EHRC said.

Failing to make these “reasonable adjustments” will amount to disability discrimination under the act if a worker’s menopause symptoms amount to a disability, the watchdog said.

An estimated 13 million women are going through the menopause in the UK – a substantial proportion of whom will be experiencing debilitating, life-changing symptoms, including heart palpitations, hot flushes, headaches, vaginal pain, anxiety and depression.

The watchdog argues menopausal symptoms can be deemed a disability under the Equality Act 2010 if they are having a “long-term and substantial impact” on the ability to do normal day-to-day tasks.

Taking disciplinary action against a menopausal woman because of menopause-related absence from work could amount to unlawful discrimination unless it is justified, the guidance adds.

While using language that ridicules someone because of their menopausal symptoms could be considered harassment.

Uniform policies that disadvantage women with menopause symptoms could also amount to indirect sex, age or disability discrimination, the watchdog warns.

A video explaining the guidance says: “The costs of failing to make workplace adjustments for staff can run into hundreds of thousands of pounds when taking into account the loss of talent and costs of defending a claim.”

Research shows one in 10 women who have worked during the menopause have left their jobs due to symptoms, the watchdog said.

Two thirds of working women between the ages of 40 and 60 with experience of menopausal symptoms said they have had a mostly negative impact on them at work, it added.

“Very few” workers request workplace adjustments during this time, often citing concerns about potential reactions, the watchdog stated.

It is encouraging employers to “carefully consider” the guidance available on its website and “adapt their policies and practices accordingly”.

“As Britain’s equality watchdog, we are concerned both by how many women report being forced out of a role due to their menopause-related symptoms and how many don’t feel safe enough to request the workplace adjustments,” EHRC chair Baroness Kishwer Falkner said.

“An employer understanding their legal duties is the foundation of equality in the workplace. It is clear that many may not fully understand their responsibility to protect their staff going through the menopause.”

The recommendations establish “legal obligations for employers and provides advice on how they can best support their staff”, Baroness Falkner said.

She added: “We hope that this guidance helps ensure every woman going through the menopause is treated fairly and can work in a supportive and safe environment.”

It comes after MPs previously warned a lack of support for women going through the menopause in the workplace is driving female workers out of their jobs and prompting the UK economy to “haemorrhage talent”.

Additional reporting by Press Association

Truss claims ‘West is doomed’ unless right-wingers save it

Liz Truss has delivered an apocalyptic warning that “the West is doomed” unless right-wing politicians like her are put in power to save it.

Echoing the rhetoric of Donald Trump, she blamed the “deep state” for her downfall as prime minister when her policies sparked an economic crash.

Ms Truss made her controversial comments in an article for Fox News TV, the right-wing US television station credited with helping Mr Trump win power.

Mr Trump claimed a secretive network of powerful officials and state institutes – the “deep state” – plotted to thwart his aims.

Critics dismissed it as a conspiracy theory aimed at blaming others for his failings.

Ms Truss said: “In too much of the free world, the left has been in charge for too long and the results are all too plain to see. Their agents are only too active in public and private institutions and what we have come to know as the administrative state and the deep state.”

She said she had seen it for herself first hand as the unnamed figures and bodies “sabotaged my efforts in Britain to cut taxes, reduce the size of government and restore democratic accountability”.

Her brief period in No 10 is best remembered for her catastrophic mini-Budget which sent the pound into a nose dive and sparked a crash in the markets.

In her opinion piece, Ms Truss appeared to all but endorse Mr Trump’s bid for re-election.

Going even so far as to claim that “left-wing elites” will be “aided and abetted by our enemies in China, Iran and Russia” to undermine Western societies from within, Ms Truss continued: “In a vital election year for the US, it is why we don’t just need a conservative in the White House.

“We need one who is able to take on the deep rot of the deep state and lead the free world.”

Her provocative comments are likely to attract ridicule from detractors who say she proved a reckless and incompetent prime minister, whose policies caused people’s mortgage repayments to soar.

But her allies insist her policies have since been proven right – and many Tories believe Ms Truss harbours aims of regaining the Tory leadership when Rishi Sunak leaves office, despite lasting just 49 days in Downing Street before being forced to step down.

The failed PM is striving to place herself at the forefront of a new brand of right-wing politics, recently lauching her so-called Popular Conservatism movement and now travelling to Washington, DC, where she is due to give a speech at the Republican CPAC event on Thursday.

Mr Trump is also due to speak at the event, alongside MyPillow chief executive Mike Lindell, politician Tulsi Gabbard and Steve Bannon.

Dune: Part Two is like no other blockbuster in existence

There are moments in Dune: Part Two that feel so audacious, they play out as if they were already etched onto the cinematic canon. A lone figure stands astride a mountainous worm as it pummels through the sand like Moses parting the Red Sea. A man is trapped by a psychic seduction, its effects splintering across the screen in what could only be described as an indoor thunderstorm. Gladiatorial combat takes place on a planet with an environment so inhospitable, its colours so drained, that it looks almost like a photographic negative.

Dune: Part Two, like its predecessor, is a work of total sensory and imaginative immersion. As precious as the spice of Arrakis itself, it’s the ultimate payoff to 2021’s great gamble, when filmmaker Denis Villeneuve chose to adapt half of Frank Herbert’s foundational sci-fi novel, with no guarantee a sequel would ever be made. Despite its release at the height of the pandemic, with a same-day launch on streaming services, Part One earned a hefty $400m (£317m) at the box office and 10 Oscar nominations.

If that film seeded foreboding into each frame, then Part Two is entirely consumed by it. Herbert’s work eviscerates the idea of heroic destiny by exposing it as a lie built by others for the purposes of colonisation and control. Paul Atreides (Timothée Chalamet) arrives on the desert planet of Arrakis on his father’s orders – only to discover that he’s the product of generations of genetic manipulation by his mother, Lady Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson), and her Bene Gesserit clan of space-witches. Their work has spread whispers of a prophet, the Lisan al-Gaib, who will lead the indigenous Fremen people towards freedom from their oppressors.

By Part Two, the House of Atreides has fallen, as Paul and Lady Jessica seek sanctuary and, eventually, acceptance with a Fremen tribe and their leader, Stilgar (Javier Bardem). Paul yearns for Chani (Zendaya), the Fremen warrior who’s walked right out of his dreams but has grown suspicious of claims that he is the tribe’s long-awaited saviour. Elsewhere, Princess Irulan (Florence Pugh), daughter of the Padishah Emperor (Christopher Walken), worries about her father’s inaction.

Herbert wrote the sequel, Dune Messiah, partly in response to those he believed had failed to grasp the complicated, sinister implications of Paul’s ascendancy. Villeneuve, in interviews, has already expressed his ambition to turn Messiah into a third film. But it, too, is no guarantee – and so he and co-writer Jon Spaihts have altered Herbert’s text in key places to make the second book’s thematic points here. And, my God, does the final third of Part Two emanate pure menace. It’s unlike any other blockbuster in existence.

Chalamet and Ferguson take all that was regal and dignified about their performances, and apply to them a poisoned tip. Chani is critical here, too, with a significantly expanded role as the film’s moral centre – Zendaya holds the film in her palm, with resolution and clarity. Granted, the traditional baddies are still here: Stellan Skarsgård’s Baron Harkonnen returns, still floating around in his evil little nightgown, and we’re finally introduced to his nephew and heir, Feyd-Rautha.

He’s played by Austin Butler without a trace of the Elvis drawl, but with such an uncanny Skarsgård impersonation that sons Alexander, Gustaf, Bill and Valter should be concerned they’re about to be replaced. Butler not only cleanses the mind of any memory of Sting in metal underpants (from David Lynch’s notorious 1984 take) but commits every cell of his body, from his bald head to ink-stained teeth, to snarling and slaying his way across the universe.

Anyone turned off by Dune: Part One’s portentousness won’t be converted here. But unlike, say, The Lord of the Rings, Herbert’s vision was always a funny, slightly disorienting clash of impenetrable lore and informal language (he named one of his characters “Duncan Idaho”, after all).

Villeneuve has honoured that tone, in his own way. Josh Brolin, as Paul’s mentor Gurney Halleck, performs a brief ditty about how his “stillsuit is full of piss”. And the film’s stacked with fiddly, HR Giger-inspired machines, like the desiccation pump that sucks vital water out of the Fremen dead. Part Two is as grand as it is intimate, and while Hans Zimmer’s score once again blasts your eardrums into submission, and the theatre seats rumble with every cresting sand worm, it’s the choice moments of silence that really leave their mark.

But, just as Herbert warned of hero worship, it’s critical not to treat Dune’s creative triumphs as a kind of blanket absolution. Part One was rightly criticised for its erasure of the book’s Middle Eastern and north African influences. Here, it appears someone may have listened. The Fremen’s Arabic-inspired language is now foregrounded, and onscreen representation is mildly improved – Souheila Yacoub, for example, an actor of Tunisian descent, plays Shishakli, Chani’s closest ally. On the other hand, it’s even harder now to watch Bardem pronounce Paul the prophesied Lisan al-Gaib, or use something not entirely unlike a prayer mat, and not interpret it as a form of whitewashing.

Yet, as Part Two makes clear, Villeneuve isn’t done with Dune, even if he’s already made his mark on sci-fi history. Now, the most compelling question is – what comes next?

Dir: Denis Villeneuve. Starring: Timothée Chalamet, Zendaya, Rebecca Ferguson, Josh Brolin, Austin Butler, Florence Pugh. 12A, 165 minutes.

‘Dune: Part Two’ is in cinemas from 1 March

Mapped: Hotspots for rare contagious cancer that can spread between species

Seaports are hotspots for the global spread of a rare contagious cancer type affecting mussels and transmitted like parasites between individuals of the species, a new study finds.

Most often, cancer arises from mutations in DNA leading to uncontrolled cell growth in organisms and does not usually spread from one organism to another.

However, researchers have found rare infectious cancer types in some animals, including facial tumours in Tasmanian devils, some cancer in dogs, as well as leukemia-like infections in bivalve species such as mussels, clams, and cockles.

These infectious cancers may spread to more new species and pose a potential threat to ecology, scientists say.

While these cancer types usually spread between individuals of the same species, previous studies have also documented a few cases of these infections spreading among the bivalves.

Scientists suspected that human intervention may be responsible for introducing these cancers into new susceptible populations and species.

One such contagious cancer type called MtrBTN2 is known to affect mussels, especially among those living in the same sea bed, ports, and maritime transport.

Shipping traffic was thought to be the most likely explanation for the global distribution of this cancer.

Now, after studying 76 mussel populations along the coast of southern Brittany and the Vendée, researchers have found a much greater incidence of the contagious cancer in ports.

“Our results showed that ports had a higher prevalence of MtrBTN2, with a hotspot observed at a shuttle landing dock,” scientists wrote.

They suspect biofouling, whereby mussels attach themselves to ship hulls, could be behind the greater spread of the disease in seaports.

Researchers say ports may also be providing favourable conditions for the transmission of MtrBTN2, “such as high mussel density, confined sheltered shores, or buffered temperatures”.

“Our results suggest ports may serve as epidemiological hubs, with maritime routes providing artificial gateways for MtrBTN2 propagation,” they added.

The findings highlight the need for better policies to mitigate biofouling to stem the spread of the disease and preserve coastal ecosystems.

Ukraine is desperate for soldiers – it’s becoming harder to find them

When Putin sent his forces into Ukraine two years ago, Ukrainian men rushed to recruitment centers across the country to enlist, ready to die for their nation.

Today, with Russia in control of roughly one-quarter of Ukraine and the two armies virtually deadlocked along a 1,000-kilometer (620-mile) front line, that spirit to enlist has faded.

Now many Ukrainian men are evading the draft by hiding at home or trying to bribe their way out of the battle.

Along the frigid and muddy front line, commanders say their army is too small and made up of too many exhausted and wounded soldiers.

As the war enters its third year, the most urgent and politically sensitive challenge pressing on Ukraine is whether it can muster enough new soldiers to repel an enemy with far more fighters at its disposal.

Russia’s population is more than three times as large as Ukraine’s, and President Vladimir Putin has shown a willingness to force men to the front if not enough volunteer.

The lack of soldiers isn’t Ukraine’s only predicament but mobilising enough soldiers is a problem only Ukraine can solve.

To replenish its ranks, the Ukrainian government is struggling to find a balance between coercion and persuasion.

The parliament is considering legislation that would increase the potential pool of recruits by about 400,000, in part by lowering the enlistment age from 27 to 25. But the proposal is highly unpopular, forcing elected officials to grapple with questions that cut to the heart of nationhood: Can they convince enough citizens to sacrifice their lives? And, if not, are they willing to accept the alternative?

A Ukrainian soldier fighting near the city of Avdiivka — where soldiers retreated last week to save lives — said his unit was recently outnumbered by about 5 to 1 when dozens of Russian soldiers stormed their position, killing everyone but himself and two others.

“We were almost completely defeated,” said Dima, who refused to provide his last name for security reasons.

Roughly 800 kilometers (500 miles) away, a 42-year-old man hides at home outside of Kyiv, distressed. “I feel a sort of a guilt for being a man … I cannot feel myself free,” said Andrii, who insisted on using his first name only to speak about dodging the draft.

Tens of thousands of other eligible Ukrainian men are estimated to be evading the draft, at home or abroad.

Because there aren’t enough new recruits, soldiers on the front line aren’t getting enough rest in between rotations. Two years of grueling battles have left men fatigued and more susceptible to injury. When there are new recruits, they are too few, too poorly trained and often too old, according to interviews with two dozen Ukrainian soldiers, including six commanders.

Commanders say they don’t have enough soldiers to launch offensives, and barely enough to hold positions amid intensifying Russian assaults.

Brigades of 3,000-5,000 soldiers are typically fighting with only 75% of their full strength, according to Vadym Ivchenko, a lawmaker who is part of the parliament’s national security, defense and intelligence committee. Some brigades have as few as 25%, he added.

Dima, the soldier fighting near Avdiivka, was among a dozen men treated recently at a field hospital near the front. Doctors there said their work was like a merry-go-round: Soldiers sent back to fight after being treated often reappear weeks later with fresh wounds.

Igor Ivantsev, 31, has been wounded twice in the span of four months. His body aches when he carries his machine gun, but doctors deem him fit to serve. Ivantsev said that of the 17 men he enlisted with, most are dead; the rest are like him, wounded.

Ivantsev’s commander, who would only provide his first name, Dmytro, said his exhausted and depleted company is working overtime to dig deeper trenches and build better locations from which to counter constant Russian artillery. “We have no people, nowhere to get them from,” Dmytro said.

At the start of the war, soldiers were rotated every two weeks for one week of rest, he said. But now his soldiers fight for a month, then get four days of rest.

“We are not made of steel,” said Ivantsev.

The average Ukrainian servicemen is in their 40s, according to Western officials. Commanders say the older the soldiers, the more they experience chronic illness, such as ulcers, hernias and pinched nerves.

Dima’s assault company recently received seven new recruits ages 55 to 58.

“What positions are they going to storm?” he asked sarcastically. “If he walks 4 kilometers with a backpack full of gear and weapons, he will fall down in the middle of the road.”

Nearby, Alyona Yalunka, a medic, cares for a 42-year-old injured soldier who goes by the battlefield name Kolmyk. She feeds him a piece of chocolate.

“I will kiss these guys’ feet to the bitter end, as long as they just stand, take up arms and protect my daughters,” Yalunka said.

Kolmyk looked up at her with glassy eyes as his painkillers started to kick in. “Now, I can rest,” he said.

In Kyiv, the parliament is grappling with legislation that would enable the military to draft more men so that those already in battle can get more rest or even be relieved of duty.

An estimated 300,000 Ukrainian soldiers are currently fighting along the front line, while others serve elsewhere, lawmakers said. Putin has said twice as many Russian troops are in Ukraine.

The Ukrainian military seeks to mobilize up to 500,000 more men, but realizing how unpopular such a move would be, lawmakers are treading carefully. Over a thousand amendments have been attached to draft legislation that even President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has yet to publicly endorse.

Under the draft legislation, any individual who fails to respond to call up notices could potentially have their bank accounts frozen and their ability to travel outside the country restricted — provisions that Ukraine’s human rights ombudsman has called unconstitutional.

Lawmakers critical of the legislation, including Ivchenko, say the military hasn’t adequately explained how a surge in conscription will meaningfully change the outcome of the war. The two countries have been at a near standstill for months following a failed counteroffensive by the Ukrainians over the summer. But the Russians have recently taken the initiative.

“Will this law be enough for the armed forces to change the situation on the battlefield?” asked Ivchenko.

While the legislation envisions a pool of at least 400,000 new recruits, a more realistic figure may be half that after accounting for draft dodgers and those with legitimate claims to defer enlistment, said Oksana Zabolotna, an analyst with the Center for United Actions, a government watchdog in Kyiv.

The legislation’s toughest sell are men like a 35-year-old website creator who insisted on anonymity to discuss his decision to hide at home in a suburb of Kyiv rather than join the war effort.

He refuses to fight, he said, because he doesn’t want to kill people; his plan is to raise enough money to escape Ukraine, which currently forbids men younger than 60 from traveling abroad.

The legislation being considered in parliament would, in theory, leave less room for men like him to hide by requiring all draft-eligible citizens to check in with the government via an electronic-tracking system. This system could also help balance a disparity in which recruitment patrols disproportionately target poor, rural areas to force draft dodgers to enlist.

“Everyone understands it isn’t equal,” said Ivchenko, the lawmaker.

While some bribe their way out of the draft entirely, others cut deals to be placed at a safe distance from the fighting, Ivchenko said. After an investigation into corruption, Zelenskyy last year dismissed all the regional heads of recruitment.

The website creator hiding outside of Kyiv said he senses the government closing in, as if authorities are out to get him, one way or another.

“It’s a feeling that everyone wants to throw you in a meat grinder,” he said.

At a recruitment center in Kyiv, men are examined by doctors to determine their fitness to serve.

Rustem Mineev, a 36-year-old railway worker, assumed he would be exempt from duty because his job is essential to the war effort. He was shocked when his workplace ordered him to get checked. “Of course, I am very scared,” he said while waiting to get an X-ray.

Dr. Olga Yevchenko, who is in charge of medical exams for new recruits, said some do try to bribe their way out.

“It is difficult to make a decision,” she said. “If a young man (comes), and he is completely healthy, you always know how it ends.”

How to help create a smokefree generation

“Some people can just stop and then never smoke again, but for most it’s hard,” says Tim Eves a 45-year-old father of three from West Sussex.

“It’s just getting through those initial tough few months. Once you do the benefits hugely outweigh the stress of giving it up.”

Tim was a smoker for around 12 years, but gave up with help from a local support group who introduced him to nicotine patches and gum.

“I won’t pretend it isn’t hard,” he adds. “The first few months, you have it in your head that you’d love to have just one cigarette. But now, if we happen to be in the pub it doesn’t even enter my head.”

Taking the first step to go smokefree may sound daunting, but quitting smoking offers significant health benefits – and can save you money.

Tobacco is the single most important entirely preventable cause of ill health, disability and death in this country, responsible for 80,000 deaths in the UK each year.

It causes around 1-in-4 cancer deaths in the UK and is responsible for just over 70 per cent of all lung cancer cases.

Smoking also substantially increases the risk of many major health conditions throughout people’s lives, such as strokes, diabetes, heart disease, stillbirth, dementia and asthma.

Smoking increases the chance of stillbirth by almost half and makes children twice as likely to be hospitalised for asthma from second-hand smoking.

And a typical addicted smoker spends £2,400 a year.

Jo Howarth, 52, from St Helens, Merseyside, finally kicked her addiction after 20 years of on-and-off smoking.

“I was quite anti-smoking as a young teenager, but I started when I was 16 because I wanted to fit in with the cool crowd,” she says.

“I knew it was bad for me, but it was so hard to give up. I tried cold turkey, hypnotherapy and at one point I had a staple in my ear, but I never lasted more than about six months.

“After I got married, I wanted to conceive so I cut down to one a day but the moment I found out I was pregnant with my daughter, I stopped.

“As soon as the reason outweighed the addiction, I found a reason to stop and as a hypnotherapist I know that pinpointing why you’re addicted is the key to stopping.

“I used to think that smoking calmed me down, but now I realise that’s a myth – it was just the deep breaths I was taking while I did it. Without it I’m so much healthier and I’m determined to stay smokefree for my kids.”

Smokers lose an average of 10 years life expectancy – around one year for every four smoking years.

Smokers also need care on average 10 years earlier than they would otherwise have – often while still of working age.

‘’Smoking is based on addiction and most people wish they had never taken it up,” says Chris Whitty, the chief medical officer.

“They try to stop and they cannot. Their choice has been taken away. As a doctor I have seen many people in hospital desperate to stop smoking but they cannot.”

The government is now working on creating a smokefree generation.

The new proposals give citizens more freedom. Smoking is not a choice, it is an addiction, and the large majority of smokers and ex-smokers regret ever starting in the first place.

Creating a smokefree generation will be one of the most significant public health measures in a generation, saving thousands of lives and billions of pounds for our NHS and the economy, and levelling up the UK by tackling one of the most important preventable drivers of inequality in health outcomes.

New laws will protect future generations from ever taking up smoking as well as tackling youth vaping by:

Alongside the Bill, there will be new funding to support current smokers to quit by doubling the funding of local ‘stop smoking services’ (to nearly £140 million) as well as £30m of new funding to crack down on illicit tobacco and underage sale of tobacco and vapes.

Now the war in Gaza is poisoning British politics

According to the motions presented by the political parties on Wednesday, during the latest Commons debate on the war in Gaza, their attitudes may be summarised as follows. The Scottish National Party wants “an immediate ceasefire in Gaza and Israel”. The Labour Party is calling for “an immediate humanitarian ceasefire”. The Conservative government’s policy is for “an immediate humanitarian pause”.

Some might wonder how such minor differences in phrase and meaning could eventually result in the Commons collapsing into total chaos. The fiasco over voting was both arcane and tragic.

The speaker, Sir Lindsay Hoyle, broke with tradition and tried to have three votes on each party’s motion, thus allowing all sides to have their different says on a matter of national importance. It also meant, in some cases, members could vote in a way that matched their own view more closely, and protected them personally from outside pressure from constituents about their stance.

Does Britain still possess a credible nuclear deterrent?

The news that one of the UK’s proud arsenal of nuclear-capable missiles fell harmlessly into the Atlantic during testing comes as a further embarrassment to the Ministry of Defence.

In recent weeks, the British public, increasingly alarmed at the behaviour of Vladimir Putin, has learnt that the army stands at its lowest strength since the Napoleonic wars, that both of our otherwise magnificent aircraft carriers have trouble getting seaborne, that one of our warships crashed into another because of “faulty wiring”, and that Donald Trump has threatened to withdraw the US commitment to Nato.

Even the special forces, the finest of their kind in the world, are now being accused of war crimes in Afghanistan. It’s not inspiring confidence…