Supporting women with menstruation challenges at work


Supporting women with menstruation challenges at work

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Menstruation is a natural biological process experienced by billions of women worldwide. Yet a recent study from CIPD highlights the often unrecognised challenges experienced by women when it comes to menstruation.

The report, which surveyed 2,000 women highlighted that 69% had experienced a negative experience at work due to menstrual symptoms. Furthermore, more than half called in sick due to symptoms, and most said they didn’t feel able to tell their line manager the reason why (49%).

The symptoms experienced by menstruation vary, but commonly include abdominal cramps, irritability, fatigue, bloating and low mood. In addition, 15% also have menstrual conditions, such as Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), endometriosis, fibroids or Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD). Ultimately, all of these symptoms lead to reduced concentration and confidence, and increased stress and discomfort.

According to the CIPD, only 12% of respondents said that their organisation provides support for menstruation. Typically, this is in the form of free period products and time off for medical appointments, both of which are big steps forward.

Some of the primary challenges faced by menstruation at work are the lack of awareness and accommodation, and concerns over confidentiality. Many workplaces lack policies or support systems that acknowledge their specific needs, something that contributes to an environment where women feel uncomfortable discussing female health needs or requesting accommodations.

Various initiatives and organisations are advocating for menstrual equity in the workplace. Non-profit organisations, community groups, and activists are raising awareness about the challenges faced by menstruation and pushing for policy changes. These efforts aim to eliminate stigma, promote access to menstrual products, and create supportive workplace environments for all employees.

To address menstrual challenges at work more effectively, we’ve listed below a few initiatives and steps that some companies are implementing. It’s important to note that the most effective support links to other employee wellbeing policies and initiatives.

1. Flexible work policies.

Implementing flexible work hours or remote work options, allows women to manage their workload according to their energy levels and physical comfort. This helps to manage absence and performance management with compassion and flexibility.

2. Accessible menstrual products.

Ensure that menstrual products, such as pads and tampons, are readily available and provided free of charge in office toilets.

3. Education.

Build an inclusive and supportive culture and normalise awareness around female health, through providing educational workshops or seminars. You can also include dedicated resources on the company intranet and remember to signpost to more specific support.

4. Wellbeing support and initiatives.

Providing access to support services such as training in self-management support, counselling, nutrition and medical care for employees dealing with menstrual-related mental health issues or stress. Implement wellness programs that cater specifically to menstrual health, such as yoga or meditation sessions aimed at alleviating menstrual symptoms.

5. Flexible dress code.

If your organisation has a uniform or specific dress code, try keeping in mind the types of clothing or outfits that are suitable for managing menstrual discomfort, if feasible within the workplace’s standards.

6. Open communication channels.

Like many wellbeing issues, creating an open communication culture, where employees feel supported and able to communicate their health challenges, can help to identify and help those that might need additional support.

7. Policy development and implementation.

Keep menstrual health in mind when developing policies around sickness, time-off, health appointments and flexible working.

Employers who prioritise employee wellbeing, not only support the health of their employees, but also contribute to a more inclusive and understanding work culture for everyone.