Challenges around menstruation and menstrual health are common and can have an impact on working life. It is estimated that around 80% of the menstruating workforce will experience period pain at some stage, with PMS symptoms (impacting moods and emotions) affecting around 75%. CIPD research found that more than two-thirds of women experience a negative impact at work due to menstruation symptoms and more than half (53%) had been unable to go into work at some point due to their symptoms. For a small minority (4%) this was the case every month.
Despite menstruation being a normal part of life, and the prevalence of menstrual health challenges, these issues are often shrouded in taboo and silence in the workplace. When asked whether they had told their manager that the reason for not being able to go into work was because of their menstrual cycle, CIPD research found that around half of employees (49%) said they never tell their manager it’s related to their menstrual cycle.
This taboo is linked to broader societal attitudes around menstruation and menstrual health issues, but also because dedicated menstruation and menstrual health policies and provisions remain rare. Our research found that two-thirds (67%) of employers said there is no support available.
Offering appropriate support in the workplace can make people feel included, offer dignity and reduce embarrassment. It can increase employee attendance and legitimise absence where this is needed. It can increase performance, engagement, retention and employer branding.
Employers can improve employee experience by creating environments and work cultures that are menstruation-friendly, and by providing support for menstrual health conditions that is underpinned by the principles of compassion, empathy and inclusivity.
We know employers come in all shapes and sizes, with different working practices and environments. This guide is designed to support any employer wanting to develop a supportive framework. The practical suggestions can be adapted for different work environments.
Note on language
Principles to promote awareness and good practice around menstruation
Managing employees with menstrual health conditions
In addition to the principles above, organisations can offer specific support for employees experiencing menstrual health conditions.
Make sure you signpost employees to helpful services and resources, if you offer them, such as occupational health (OH) and employee assistance programmes (EAP), or point to external sources of support. Employees with menstrual health conditions should hopefully be receiving diagnosis and treatment from medical professionals. Some people benefit from seeking support from condition-specific organisations, local groups or peer support.
Explore our resources on supporting employees during their menstrual cycle
Join our webinar to explore how you can normalise conversations about menstruation and menstrual health in the workplace to better support women at work.
Practical guidance to effectively manage and support an employee’s return to work after long-term sickness absence
Practical guidance to effectively oversee and support an employee’s return to work after long-term sickness absence