It is a painful fact of life that many women experience debilitating symptoms when having their period; however, a recent poll by YouGov revealed that just 27% of the respondents would tell their boss the real reason for their absence.
More than half (52%) of the respondents experienced cramps bad enough to affect their ability to do their work properly; of these, almost one-third had been forced to take one or more days off sick as a result of the effects of their menstrual cycle. This embarrassment at what is still in most social circles a taboo subject – although, of course, entirely natural and inevitable – is leading to some women suffering unnecessarily, say those in the know.
Dr Imogen Shaw, who specialises in the healthcare of women, believes the issue would be given more serious attention if it was men having the periods. Many bosses, and particularly male bosses, lack empathy and understanding when it comes to period pain and there is a knowledge gap when it comes to understanding how bad it can be.
Period pain is very common, with around 90% of women experiencing it at some point in their lives. It can also be severe, effectively crippling the woman involved and leaving her struggling or unable to work. Dr Gedis Grudzinskas, a consultant gynaecologist, said employers should make sure they are aware of the potential problem half their workforce may encounter and must become more accommodating to sufferers.
He added that many women suffer badly during their periods and that companies should consider introducing menstrual leave – something that certain firms in Japan already offer their workers. Organisations that offer this concession to the trials of female biology find themselves with a more motivated and contented – and therefore more productive – workforce, says Dr Grudzinskas.
One company in Britain already has its own version of the policy. Coexist, a community interest company in Bristol, introduced its ‘period policy’ this year, allowing workers suffering from period pain to stay off work without the need to produce a sick note.
Most of the firm’s workers are women and those taking up the offer must make up the time they miss. Many employment experts believe more British companies should follow suit.
Jemima Olchawski, who works for women’s rights charity The Fawcett Society, said it is time employers got over the taboo of periods and recognised the impact they can have on women’s lives.
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