A survey by Bloody Good Period found that 89% of people who menstruate have experienced stress or anxiety at work because of their period, with over a quarter of people feeling their manager doesn’t support them when they experience period pain.
With a third of employees under the impression that it is more professional to not mention menstrual health to their employer, employers are at risk of losing productivity and lowering employee retention while employees menstruate in private. Employees who menstruate work are at their optimal when they feel supported at work, demonstrating the importance for businesses to introduce policies to ensure employees are comfortable speaking about their experiences.
As Spain becomes the first European country to introduce paid ‘menstrual leave’, Lucy Lettice, Co-Founder at &SISTERS, providers of organic period products, has listed five tips to aid businesses in supporting their employees while they menstruate.
- Start the conversation around menstruation
To start and normalise conversations around menstrual health in the workplace, employers must work to raise awareness around periods and how they can impact employees during work hours. Introducing staff-training sessions, resources on menstruation at work, and lunch and learn sessions with guest speakers are all opportunities to provide more information about menstruation to all employees and open the floor for individuals to share their own experiences with their line managers and peers.
- Survey employees to understand their needs
To understand how you can aid your employees when they are menstruating, the best place to start is by directly asking them how they would prefer to be supported. While some individuals know their cycle like clockwork and experience minimal issues, other employees may face more discomfort or hormone changes while they menstruate, making it important to ask individuals about their personal experience with menstruation and the changes they would like to see from the company.
- Make practical changes to support employees
With practical changes, employers are able to physically show their support for employees who are on their period, aiding in removing the taboo nature of menstruation in the workplace. This could be through providing organic tampons and pads free of charge in bathrooms, making painkillers accessible, and even offering hot water bottles to staff where possible.
- Offer flexible working where possible
For some employees, their menstrual cycle may leave them feeling low in energy, making it more difficult to be present in the office during working hours. Where possible, employers should consider offering flexible working to employees where they can work comfortably from home if they are struggling with period symptoms.
Employees may need to prioritise different tasks at different times of the month, for example, scheduling important deadlines or presentations so they fall outside of their cycle. Employers should aid in facilitating this to ensure employees are at their most productive, and they’re comfortable.
- Reassess sick leave to suit your workforce
While some employers in the UK have begun to introduce menstrual leave, either as an individual offering or included within their overall sick leave policy, others have no explicit rule outlined. In order to break the stigma around periods and absences, employees should consider how menstrual leave fits within their absence policy and how they can assist employees in feeling most comfortable reporting their sick leave.
Utilising policy changes, training, and practical changes, employers should work to improve the lack of empathy and awareness which currently exists in workplaces in relation to menstruation.
Commenting on the legalities of supporting employees while they menstruate, George Miller, Employment Law Specialist at Richard Nelson LLP commented:
“Employers have no legal obligation to offer employees sick days when on their period. However, if an employee is too unwell to work due to their period, they can take sick leave and provided that they are absent for 7 days or less,
“There are many things employers could do to support employees, such as offering paid ‘menstrual leave’ of a certain number of days a month. Employers could also offer flexibility to work from home, allow employees to book flexible leave in anticipation of periods, ensure access to sanitary bins and offer free period products, update their equal opportunities policies to educate employees about periods and specifically prohibit discrimination and harassment in relation to periods.”