On LinkedIn recently, we held a poll asking:
“Do you have a Menstrual Leave Policy?”
The responses were:
- Yes 0%
- No – not planning to 24%
- No – we haven’t thought of it 38%
- No – interested to find out more 38%
Spanish politicians recently approved a draft bill which, if passed, would allow those with painful periods to have two days off a month.
Nations around the world are undergoing a societal shift around reproductive and women’s health – and this is being reflected in workplace benefits.
Earlier this year, the UK government published the results of its ‘Women’s Health – Let’s talk about it’ survey, which examined women’s experiences of dealing with five key health issues, one of which was menstrual health.
In the survey, just one in three respondents said women feel comfortable talking about health issues in their workplace, and only half said their current or previous workplace had been supportive with regards to health issues.
Since only females, and those assigned female at birth, are able to menstruate, placing an employee at a disadvantage due to a women’s health issue could amount to sex discrimination or harassment. This has previously been seen in Rooney v Leicestershire City Council (2021) whereby a female employee was treated negatively due to going through menopause. The same considerations would apply to those who suffer with severe period pain, and who need time off work to manage this.
There are clear benefits of having an inclusive workplace and new and improved policies to support women specifically will not only result in a happier workforce, but it will improve staff retention by keeping workers loyal and engaged (especially millennial and Gen Z workers, who generally have different expectations of their employers than previous generations) and help in attracting new talent, something that is increasingly important as we struggle through the current employment crisis.
Whilst employees can always take sick leave if they are too unwell to work, this isn’t straightforward as many women will see this as a part of life, rather than a sickness, even if their periods are causing them immense pain.
What Should You Consider Before Introducing A Menstrual Leave Policy?
Consider Your Workforce Demographic
Firstly, consider your workforce demographic, to confirm the number of employees that monthly menstruation would affect and determine the percentage of those who could be suffering with menstrual problems. It is also sensible to speak to staff about their thoughts on introducing such a policy.
Education is also hugely important. If a menstrual leave policy is to be introduced, the entire workforce needs to understand what is meant by a painful period – this isn’t about slight discomfort, but about serious symptoms such as fever, bad headaches, diarrhoea and severe pain. Some people experience extremely heavy blood loss during this time, which can be distressing and difficult to manage. Increased awareness and understanding among the workforce will help to avoid harmful stereotypes being fuelled.
Managers would also need further training, so they are able to signpost individuals in the right direction and encourage employees to feel confident and comfortable discussing these issues.
Additional Ways To Support Those Who Menstruate
There are also additional ways to support those who menstruate, such as providing space and time to rest or free menstrual hygiene products in bathrooms.
Ensuring that all employees have sufficient sick leave is also crucial – if this policy is generous enough, designating extra days for menstrual-related reasons may not even be necessary, as long as employees understand that caring for themselves if they are experiencing severe symptoms during their period counts within this.
Whilst there are no immediate plans for the UK government to follow the Spanish lead in terms of introducing legislation, there are good reasons for businesses to provide better support for women now – for the health of their staff, the inclusivity of their business and to stand the best chance of attracting and retaining the best talent for their future success.
If you’d like to discuss this further, please don’t hesitate to contact us. We are more than happy to support you.