New Year, New Menstrual Health Policies? How We Can Better Support Women in the Workforce in 2018
New year, new menstrual health policies? How we can better support women in the workforce in 2018
Unless you live under a rock, you’ve likely noticed that there’s been a serious focus on women’s equality in the workplace, and we couldn’t be happier about it. As the conversation around gender equality continues to unfold, we’d like to take moment to draw attention to a topic that doesn’t usually get much air time: menstrual health policies at work.
Research has shown that women with abnormal uterine bleeding (AUB), or heavy periods, miss on average 1.5 days of work out of every cycle, due to severe symptoms like extreme cramping or excessive bleeding.1 That adds up to 18 days a year on average! Considering many women work for companies who don’t allot more than 10 paid sick days a year, we can conclude that oftentimes women who suffer from AUB don’t get the support they need from their employer. Below are some thought starters on how our society might better support women in the workforce in 2018.
Paid Menstrual Leave
Perhaps the most straightforward approach to strengthening menstrual health policies in the workplace is to offer women paid leave or sick days specifically for use during the menstrual cycle. These kinds of policies show acceptance and support for women who suffer from severe menstrual symptoms, and encourage women to take leave who might otherwise suffer through the day at their desk to save up on sick days. Providing women with an upfront option to stay home while they’re suffering from heavy bleeding or severe cramps prevents the embarrassment of having to make a special leave request or the disadvantage of using sick days for an anticipated monthly occurrence.
Flexible Work Condition
If paid menstrual leave isn’t in the cards, then flexible working conditions is something your company would consider. For women who need to change their tampon every hour or are in constant danger of cramping up, having the option to work from home could make all the difference. Prioritizing the health needs of employees is critically important, and allowing work from home flexibility could be a simple way to support employees.
Be an Approachable Manager
Every individual manager can do their part in advancing the way we perceive and discuss menstrual health polices at work by being open, approachable, and understanding towards women who may have special health needs during their monthly cycle. One in five women suffer from heavy periods2, so chances are high that if you’re in mid-to-upper-level management, you’re working closely with someone who has AUB. Be sensitive when women request to work from home due to health issues, and solution-oriented if you’re engaged in a conversation about it. If you manage an employee who has used all of her sick days but simply can’t come in due to a painfully heavy flow, encourage her to talk to your HR representative to try and work something out, or offer to schedule that meeting yourself.
Some Companies are Already Doing It
Creating menstrual health policies at work isn’t purely aspirational – some companies are already doing it, and they’re setting a new standard for global health benefits. For instance, Nike has had an official menstrual policy incorporated into their code of conduct for several years.3 And in countries like Japan, menstrual leave policies have been in place for women since World War II.
Regardless of your workplace’s menstrual leave policies, if you think you’re suffering from heavy periods, talk to your doctor about diagnosing and seeking treatment for AUB. And always remember that your biggest health advocate is you.
- Hologic, Inc. Data on File; AUB Patient Journey Research, conducted January 2017. Survey of 1,003 women who self-identified as currently or recently experiencing heavy bleeding with need to change feminine hygiene product very hour or more.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Heavy menstrual Bleeding. https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/blooddisorders/women/menorrhagia.html.
- The Nike Code of Conduct. 2005. http://www.apparelsearch.com/education/research/child_labor_clothing/child_labor_fashion_industry_2005/v_apparel_appendices/surveys_from_companies/nike.htm.
- Posted by Dot.
- On January 18, 2018