More than two thirds (69%) of women have had a negative experience at work due to menstruation symptoms, according to research by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD).
The professional body for HR and people development’s report Menstruation and support at work, which surveyed more than 2,000 women, found that the most common reported symptoms include abdominal cramps (60%), irritability (52%), fatigue (49%) and bloating (49%). Of those who experienced symptoms, 61% said they worked when they did not feel well enough to, and 20% took sick leave.
Two-thirds (63%) said they were less able to concentrate, 50% felt an increased amount of stress, 49% were less patient with colleagues or clients and 38% said they felt less confident at work.
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More than one in 10 (15%) also had a menstrual health condition such as polycystic ovary syndrome, premenstrual dysphoric disorder or endometriosis. Among those who have had a formal diagnosis of such a condition, 81% said menstruation symptoms have had a negative impact on them at work.
Despite 53% being unable to attend work at some point in their career because of menstruation symptoms, 49% never tell their manager the absence is related to their menstrual cycle.
When asked why they did not reveal the true reason, 45% thought the problem would be trivialised and 43% felt embarrassed.
Just one in 10 (12%) said that their organisation provides support for menstruation and menstrual health conditions. Free period products, paid time off for medical appointments and paid sick leave were the three top-rated support offerings that employees would value.
Claire McCartney, senior resourcing and inclusion adviser at CIPD, said: “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.”