Let’s make a change to how we view menstrual pain in the workplace

March 13, 2023
Rashmi Dubé


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In the past 10 years or so, employers have become more aware of women’s health and how it can impact their career and productivity. Up until then, and even now to some extent, most legislation and corporate policies have been written by men with male biology in mind. It was only in 1993 that the UK brought in maternity leave, which they were forced to do with a European directive.

Progress for women has generally always been slow but more so in the work or business environment. The view under ESG (Environmental Social and Governance) from the directors of any board should be one of equity and equality. Good governance practice is to make everyone inclusive with the resources that they need. This is why business today should not be waiting for government policy to change around women and girls’ health. The onerous is really upon the directors/employers themselves, to bring changes into their organisation – they have to care for their stakeholder and employees most definitely fall within that realm. Creating internal policies specifically to support women’s health, whether that be menopause awareness in the workplace, or menstrual leave is critical to the inclusion and equity.  

If you have ever experienced menstruation, you likely know the pain and discomfort that it can bring. But if you haven’t, you might be wondering why people would want to have sick leave for something that is a typical experience for most women, and something they have had to deal with at work for centuries. I often see two push backs on menstrual leave – why bring change when it is not required and why create another obstacle for women to overcome in the workplace. Both points are not obstacles, and changes allow you to obtain better skilled labour force and achieve greater productivity. There is a business argument to be had here.

A 2016 report from the University College of London found that women can experience menstrual pain that is as bad as a heart attack. But that because our medical research and the systems that we have in place are created by men, women often don’t receive the treatment or understanding that they deserve.

Whilst paid menstrual leave might be a new idea in the western world, with the news of Spain offering paid menstrual leave making headlines last year, it has been seen in Asia since 1953. Countries such as Japan, Indonesia and South Korea already have these types of policies in place.

From an economic corporate stance, women who experience menstruation pains are likely to be less productive, having a knock-on effect to the wider team.

Offering menstrual leave and reviewing your women’s health policies could create a better workplace environment for your employees. Productivity could also increase as women wouldn’t have to work whilst in severe discomfort, and staff would feel a greater sense of loyalty to the company as their wellbeing is being protected.  This of course falls firmly under the practice of good governance that should be exercised by all directors (including NED’s).

If businessowners look to implement a menstrual leave policy, they may find themselves with a healthier, happier, and more profitable company.

To discuss any queries regarding menstrual leave please contact Rashmi Dube.

The team’s work in women’s health also includes a series on menopause and the workplace. Read more here.