Tackling Period Stigma in the Workplace
The workplace is a huge part of most people’s lives and it’s important that they feel comfortable in it, for their own well-being. All employers should strive to make their organizations a safe and welcoming environment for each and every member of staff.
Recent research has revealed that many people still feel uncomfortable or unwelcome in their workplace due to the stigma around periods. A survey of 2,000 menstruating women and trans men by HR and CIPD training provider DPG shows that almost half (47%) acknowledge they face period stigma at work.
Period stigma is the result of belief, whether conscious or unconscious, that menstruation is somehow dirty or shameful. The effect it has on women can be oppressive and impact on women’s health.
Although only half of the women acknowledge outright that they face stigma on this topic, further research indicates that the problem may be more far-reaching. 60% of menstruators say that they feel they could not talk about periods at work at all. This jumps up to three-quarters (75%) in workplaces with more men than women.
This discomfort towards a discussion on the topic leads to a reluctance on the part of menstruators to share related health issues. 57% of menstruating women and trans men say they’ve had to lie about reasons they needed a sick day to cover up period pain.
The impact of this stigma is not just a reluctance to talk about periods, but also a lack of awareness of the facilities people need. This is reflected by shortfalls in the workplace. One-quarter of survey respondents said that their workplace did not have sanitary bins in its restrooms. Lacking this facility creates awkward and potentially dangerous situations for staff.
Furthermore, almost one-third of respondents also said they do not have constant access to a toilet at work. This scenario can be difficult for workers if they have to alert colleagues and managers each time they need to use the bathroom.
DPG’s survey revealed that this stigma can also manifest itself as offensive and sometimes derogatory comments. Respondents to their survey recounted examples of hostilities they had faced, including statements such as:
- “It’s just an excuse to be a bitch”
- “You’re just lazy”
- “It’s because she’s on the rag”
To prevent stigma building in the workplace, there’s plenty that employers and managers can be doing. A major part of this is ensuring all facilities that can aid menstruators are available to them. On a base level, this means putting sanitary bins in all restrooms and ensuring all staff has free access to a toilet whenever they need it as a bare minimum.
Beyond this, there are a number of other facilities employers can provide that can let workers know that yours is a period positive workplace. Items such as heating pads can help ease cramping and the provision of free sanitary products in bathrooms offer easy solutions to anyone caught without.
Talk About It
Providing these facilities feeds into one of the other significant things employers can do to address period stigma – start conversations. Talking about something is one of the most effective ways of normalizing it. The conversation does not have to be direct, it can be introduced generally or as part of wider discussions around wellness. Gradually bringing the topic into the workplace will help position your organization as a period positive place, meaning your employees feel more able to address the issue.
The end result of addressing period stigma in your workplace should be creating a pleasant place for your staff to be. This should mean they are happier, more content, and in turn more productive. Thus, addressing period stigma benefits not only your staff but your business too
About the author: Hannah Rogers, is an HR Content Specialist. Hannah is an experienced writer who enjoys writing about HR and prompting conversations that can bring improvements in the workplace.