Supporting Menstruation in the Workplace: A Vital Investment in Women’s Health and Growth

16 May 2024

In recent years, the conversation around women’s health in the workplace has gained more traction to shed light on the importance of supporting menstruation at work.

With staggering statistics revealing the profound impact of period symptoms on productivity and wellbeing, it has become increasingly evident that prioritising period health and accommodating the diverse needs of menstruating people is not just a matter of ethics or compassion, but also has an impact on overall business performance.

According to McKinsey, improving women’s health could potentially add at least $1 trillion every year to the global economy by 2040. Investing in workplace period health and management initiatives brings great economic benefits for society and employers overall. However, despite the compelling case for action, the reality is that many organisations still fall short in providing adequate support for menstruation and closing the health gap among employees.

Periods can wreak havoc on our physiological and psychological wellbeing. The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) reveal that 80% of the menstruating workforce will experience period pain at some stage, with 53% being unable to go into work due to their symptoms. Moreover, 67% of employers admit that there is no support available for periods in the workplace.

Unfortunately, people have no choice when it comes to menstruating, and there should be support available and flexibility when employees face physical discomfort or significant disruptions in their professional lives as people should not be held back by their biology.

The impact of periods on productivity cannot be overstated. Research published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) indicates that menstrual symptoms are linked to nearly 9 lost days of productivity through presenteeism each year. Presenteeism, the phenomenon of employees being present at work but not fully productive due to health issues, is a costly problem for businesses. Addressing menstrual health concerns can directly contribute to improving wellbeing, workplace productivity and overall organisational performance. We know that when people feel their best, they perform their best.

Furthermore, the stigma surrounding menstruation exacerbates the challenges faced by menstruating individuals in the workplace. Financial Services Union data reveals that 49% of women are uncomfortable discussing menstrual health issues at work, with 69% citing discomfort due to the gender of their manager. This can lead to a culture of silence and shame, preventing individuals from seeking the support they need to manage their menstrual symptoms effectively. If management or employers are unaware of ongoing challenges, they cannot offer support or make any necessary adjustments. The stigma and fear of judgement means employers have not got a true picture or insight into the true situation, and the cycle continues.

Organisations must recognise that menstrual health is not a taboo topic but a fundamental aspect of well-being and workplace equity. By implementing supportive policies and initiatives, businesses can create an inclusive environment where menstruating individuals feel valued, respected, and empowered to perform at their best.

Employees should feel comfortable expressing their challenges to be supported in a way that makes the most sense for their individual situation.

Period friendly employers can look like:

  • Providing free menstrual products such as pads, tampons, or menstrual cups. Consider offering resources such as hot water bottles, pain relievers, or access to healthcare professionals for employees dealing with severe menstrual symptoms.
  • Offering flexibility to those experiencing severe menstrual symptoms like flexible working hours or remote work options helping to alleviate added stress and maintain or improve productivity.
  • Educational workshops for training employees on menstrual health including common symptoms, empathy, coping strategies and available resources. Workshops should extend to management and across different genders in the workplace.
  • Open Communication to promote inclusivity and productivity by helping people feel comfortable discussing period health issues without fear of stigma or discrimination.

In conclusion, supporting period health and symptom management in the workplace helps unlock the true and full potential of your workforce. Employees should be able to thrive regardless of their biology.

Spectrum.Life would like to take the opportunity to remind you that menstruation isn’t exclusive to women. Although it is often associated with female health, some individuals who identify as men or otherwise may also experience periods. Acknowledging this diversity in our experiences helps drive inclusivity and acceptance.