Many women of working age are still reluctant to discuss menstrual health issues with their employers, despite the pandemic having led to more openness and transparency around health and wellbeing, research has suggested.
A survey of 2,000 people for the charity Endometriosis UK found nearly two-thirds (60%) of women aged 16-24 and more than half (56%) of those aged 25-34 felt they would be concerned discussing the condition with their employer if they were taking time off because of painful periods and chronic pelvic pain.
Across all age groups, nearly half (47%) of all women said this would be a concern, while 39% said “no” and 14% answered “not sure”.
The findings follow a warning by MPs that there is similar reluctance among many women to be open and transparent with their employers about the health effects of menopause, with one in three taking time off work because of it yet the vast majority not telling employers this was the reason why.
The research by Endometriosis UK has been published to coincide with Endometriosis Action Month (March 2022).
The charity pointed out that its findings were telling given that, when it comes to discussing health issues generally rather than ones that relate specifically to periods, workplaces are gradually becoming more open.
Menstrual health and work
The poll found that, when asked about taking time off for a generic health condition with the question not mentioning periods, the figure dropped to 40% of women who would be concerned to discuss it with their employer, and 35% of men.
Moreover, the pandemic has led to a shift towards more openness around health at work generally, with nearly half (46%) saying that Covid-19 meant they were now more likely to discuss their health and wellbeing openly at work. Only 5% said they were less likely, while 49% said “no change”.
Endometriosis UK also highlighted that Standard Life, Mitie, Severn Trent Water and more than 15 police forces have now signed up its ‘Endometriosis Friendly Employer’ scheme.
Emma Cox, chief executive of Endometriosis UK, said: “It’s great that more of us are happy to discuss health and wellbeing at work having lived through the challenges that Covid-19 brought.
“But I worry that those with endometriosis might not benefit from these changes due to the long-standing stigma around periods and menstrual health. Companies tackling that taboo are taking a great step forward for their staff, organisation, and society,” she added.