If periods have long been a taboo in the private sphere, companies are increasingly taking up this public health issue out of consideration for their employees. But they are still struggling to appreciate their disabling side for certain women, as revealed by a new British survey.
The question is far from being anecdotal. The overwhelming majority of professionals surveyed for the purposes of this survey* by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) say they experience symptoms related to menstruation. The most common ones range from abdominal cramps to irritability, fatigue and low morale. However, 15% of respondents have a gynecological condition, such as endometriosis, polycystic ovary syndrome or premenstrual dysphoric disorder.
Women fear these concerns won’t be taken seriously
These period-related pathologies greatly affect their ability to work. As proof, 82% of women who suffer from it explain having had bad experiences at the office for this reason. However, they are not the only ones to have difficulty carrying out their professional missions when they have their period. The majority of all respondents (53%) have had to take time off work because of their menstrual problems, and 4% are forced to take time off work every month.
If these figures show the extent to which women are penalized by their periods in their professional lives, the CIPD study highlights the fact that companies are struggling to tackle this subject. They do not create an environment conducive to dialogue, where employees feel sufficiently confident to discuss the difficulties linked to menstruation. As proof, only 20% of respondents dare to notify their manager when they have to be absent for this reason. They explain that they are afraid that their health concerns will not be taken seriously by their superiors. Some also fear that it will hinder their career advancement.
A subject to take seriously
However, companies have every interest in supporting their employees so that they can work as well as possible during their menstruation. But few actually do it. Only 12% of respondents say that their employer helps them cope better with their periods at work, whether by providing them with free sanitary protection or by offering them the opportunity to take menstrual leave.
For the CIPD, it is urgent that managers and human resources managers be made aware of the difficulties that women may encounter during their menstruation and that they offer them the necessary support, without encroaching, however, on their intimate lives. “(This) can increase employee presence, but also legitimize absence when necessary. It can improve employee performance, engagement and retention, and employer branding“, explains the organization in its report.
Because showing empathy towards women during their periods is a powerful lever in favor of their retention. Some 5% of employees surveyed are considering leaving their current job due to lack of support for their menstrual symptoms. Some have already taken the plunge (3%).
*This survey was conducted online among 2,060 women aged 18 to 60. Data was collected between August 2 and 10, 2023.