Two-thirds of women say that their periods have a negative impact on their work, with 12% stating their career progression has been affected.
The CIPD’s Menstruation and support at work report finds that the symptoms women experience are varied, but 79% reported feeling more tired, 63% felt less able to concentrate, 50% felt more stressed, and 49% were less patient with colleagues or clients.
Sixty-one per cent continued to work despite not feeling well enough, although 53% have taken time off at some point in their career because of their menstrual symptoms.
However, 49% never tell their manager that their absence is related to their period, suggesting that stigma around talking about menstruation at work remained.
Asked why they they did not reveal the real reason for their absence, 45% felt their problem would be trivialised and 43% felt embarrassed.
Four per cent said they felt too unwell to work because of their period symptoms every month.
The YouGov survey for the CIPD involved 2,060 women aged 18-60. Around one in seven (15%) had a menstrual condition, such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), premenstrual dysphoric disorder or endometriosis.
Period pain at work
Two-thirds of respondents said their organisation does not provide support for menstruation or menstrual health via their policies, guidance or training.
Of those that have seen some support, the most common type was free period products (18%) followed by paid sick leave (15%) and paid time off for medical appointments (12%).
Aside from free period products (53%), planned flexible working (44%) and more breaks when needed (41%) were the most desired support mechanisms, but less than one in 10 employees have access to either, according to the CIPD.
Claire McCartney, senior resourcing and inclusion adviser at the CIPD said: “Our latest report on menstruation and support at work underscores the need for a more empathetic and understanding working environment. Menstruation is a natural part of many employees’ lives, and it shouldn’t be a barrier to success or wellbeing.
“Employers can greatly improve the working lives of employees who experience menstruation symptoms by creating inclusive, supportive work environments and training managers to have a better understanding of the impact it can have. A lot can be done without huge cost to businesses including the adoption of more flexible working practices and signposting to external resources.”
The report recommends that employers support women by building inclusive and open cultures where dialogue about periods is normalised; tackle stigma through awareness days and guidance; train managers; and ensure a supportive framework is in place via relevant policies, such as flexible working or sickness absence policies.
It also recommends that organisations put specific support in place for employees with menstrual health conditions by:
- training managers so that they can support staff based on individual need and can signpost to support
- encourage staff to open up about their condition by making explicit references to it in policies and practices, and making it clear that any sharing of information will be treated discretely and with compassion
- ensuring employees have easy access to information and support, such as any employee assistance programme or health and wellbeing benefits
- managing absence and performance management with compassion and flexibility
- providing access to work adjustments and training to help them manage their condition at work.