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Menstrual health support still lacking in too many workplaces, says new report

The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) says employers must do more to support women’s health at work.

A group of young women at work - they are looking at a piece of paper

More than 2 in 3 women aged 18-60 say their periods have negatively affected their working lives with many feeling unable to talk to their manager out of embarrassment or fear of their health being dismissed, according to a new report.

A survey by the Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development (CIPD) also found a serious lack of workplace support for women’s menstrual health with only 12% of employees stating that their employer provides support in the form of a policy, guidance or training. Meanwhile, 1 in 5 had no idea if their employer offered any kind of support.

The CIPD has published a series of recommendations for workplaces to support menstrual health by creating awareness, building an open and inclusive culture, developing a support framework and training line managers.

The report follows the launch of our Just a Period campaign, which is increasing awareness of period problems and and sharing information and resources to tackle the ingrained culture of silence that surrounds menstrual health.

Speaking to The Guardian about the new CIPD report, our chief executive, Janet Lindsay, said:

“It is unacceptable that menstrual health problems are causing women to suffer at work. Many have told us that stigma stops them speaking openly to employers leading to them missing work when on their period with some even being forced to quit their jobs. This is especially the case with jobs where women are doing physical work for long periods and would not be paid if they took time off."

Our Just a Period campaign seeks to break down this stigma and calls for workplaces to have better awareness of difficult menstrual issues that their employees may be going through. Janet Lindsay Wellbeing of Women CEO

“This must start with support and understanding for women and be underpinned by meaningful menstrual health policies, which offer information and training, as well as free period products to employees.

“It is also vital that senior leaders recognise the importance of and need for support, understanding and empathy, and advocate for their colleagues if we are to change workplace culture once and for all.”

Earlier this year, we launched our Employer Membership Programme, specifically developed to guide and help workplaces in developing meaningful health-related support for women throughout their careers.

The unique challenges of women’s health

At Wellbeing of Women, we know how important it is for women’s health to be openly acknowledged and supported in the workplace. Women account for 48% of the UK workforce and can face a myriad of unique health-related issues throughout their working lives:

  • 1 in 3 women will experience heavy menstrual bleeding
  • Almost every woman will experience some form of period symptoms
  • 1 in 10 live with endometriosis
  • About 21,000 UK women are diagnosed with a gynaecological cancer every year
  • More than 3 in 4 will experience menopause symptoms, which includes insomnia, brain fog, poor memory and concentration, anxiety and hot flushes.

Supporting workplaces to prioritise women’s health

Through the work we have done with the Menopause Workplace Pledge, we know lots of employers want to support their female colleagues through important health-related life stages. For many, the menopause is the first step towards developing wider measures to support women’s health but not all organisations know where or how to start.

Our Employer Membership Programme addresses this need by giving organisations access to practical resources, developed together with experts, to help craft and implement policies and other measures to promote and support people’s gynaecological and reproductive health in the workplace, enabling them to thrive professionally.

Our specially developed online hub of practical resources include:

  • factsheets and policy templates to help provide meaningful support
  • best practice examples and Q&As
  • webinars with women’s health experts to learn from and share.

When people feel comfortable and safe to talk openly about their health in the workplace, and get the support they need from their employer, the entire organisation benefits.

The CIPD report says the benefits of providing appropriate support in the workplace include:

  • making people feel respected and valued
  • reducing embarrassment
  • increasing employee attendance, performance, engagement and retention

It can also increase job satisfaction and productivity, promote greater diversity within the workforce and reduce recruitment costs.