Menstruation is a natural part of life, so why is it proving a barrier to career progression and wellbeing for so many women? New CIPD research shows that, while more than half of respondents said they’ve had to miss work because of menstruation symptoms, almost half didn’t tell their manager the real reason for their absence out of embarrassment or fear that their experiences will be trivialised.
Employees want support from their organisations, but only around one in ten organisations are providing it. And a key step to addressing this issue starts with normalising the conversation around menstrual health.
This webinar explores what you can do as an employer to develop menstruation and menstrual health support and help to improve wellbeing for a sizeable proportion of your employees.
- Rachel Suff, Senior Policy Advisor – Employee Relations, CIPD
- Sophie Richards, The Endo Spectrum
- Sharon Lord, Health and Wellbeing Lead at Northern Care Alliance NHS Foundation Trust
Chaired by Claire McCartney, Senior Policy Advisor – Resourcing and Inclusion, CIPD.
Claire McCartney (CMC): Okay well welcome everyone to our CIPD webinar on menstruation and menstrual health support at work. Sorry we're just a couple of minutes late we just had a few technical difficulties but we have overcome those. So it's really great to be here with you this afternoon and in today's discussion we're going to explore how you can help to normalise conversations around menstruation and menstrual health in the workplace to better support women at work. I'm Claire McCartney and I'm the CIPD's policy advisor for resourcing and inclusion and alongside my colleague Rachel who's sitting on the panel today we lead our work on menstruation and menstrual health and menopause supportive workplaces.
So, I am really excited to be your chair for today and I'm really looking forward to this important discussion. So we've got some really great panellists lined up for you as part of our discussion today including Rachel Suff, who's our Senior Policy Advisor for employee relations at the CIPD, Sophie Richards from the Endo Spectrum and Sharon Lord Health and Wellbeing lead at Northern Care Alliance NHS Foundation Trust. So, a big welcome to our panellists. So do get your questions across to our panel as they speak and we've reserved some time at the end of the webinar to answer as many of these as we can.
Before I set the context for our discussion this afternoon, I'd just like to do a little bit of housekeeping with you. So this session is being recorded and will be available on demand through the webinar section of the CIPD website. To submit questions to the panel please do type this into the Q&A box not the chat box which we won't be checking. In terms of resources we have practical guidance for people professionals on menstruation and menstrual health support at work and also a survey report and Rachel will be sharing the findings from this today with you which you can access all free from our website.
So CIPD members can get individual legal advice, call our HR inform helpline, it's available 24-7. CIPD members in the UK and Ireland can also access our wellbeing hub and helpline together with award-winning workplace wellbeing provider Health Assured. We provide CIPD members with free help and support 24-7 and 365 days a year through a telephone or online consultations with qualified therapists and members can access the phone number and the online services through the membership benefits webpage and you'll see more details about this at the end of the session. But before I hand you over to our first panellist I'd just like to set a little bit of context and flag some of our work at the CIPD in this space.
So women's health and reproductive health has been a real focus of our work at the CIPD over the last few years and we've developed survey insights and practical guidance on a range of areas including pregnancy and baby loss, fertility challenges, investigations and treatments, as well as menopause and menstrual health. And despite menstruation being a normal part of life and the prevalence of menstrual health challenges, these issues are often shrouded in stigma and silence in the workplace and some of the survey findings that Rachel is going to share with you today I think really underscore that point in particular. And we know that organisations have made great progress on creating menopause friendly workplaces.
In 2019, when we at the CIPD launched our manifesto for menopause at work, just 10% of organisations had any kind of framework or support in place around menopause transition and in 2023 that figure has actually risen to 46%. So, I think that's really encouraging and we now really need to mirror that progress to create supportive cultures for menstruation and menstrual health. And we're really pleased that the government have a 10 year women's health strategy and have appointed Dame Leslie Regan as Women's Health Ambassador for England. And actually a key part of that strategy is around the workplace. And so we're really very much focused on supporting the aim to raise awareness and understanding of women's health and normalising conversations around what have been taboo topics like periods and menopause. And so really that's why we are having this discussion today. And that's why we launched our menstruation and menstrual health findings just actually a couple of weeks ago in Parliament, supported by Carolyn Harris MP and Helen Tomlinson, who's the UK menopause champion, to really try and place a spotlight on these important issues.
I think it's also really encouraging to see that the Women and Equalities Select Committee are currently hearing evidence on women's reproductive health, with recent evidence being given from broadcaster Naga Munchetty and also Vicky Patterson about their menstrual health conditions and experiences. So, what are women's experiences of menstruation and menstrual health at work and what more needs to be done to support them? So, over to our first panellist, Rachel Suff, who's going to share some insights from our new survey and discuss these issues further. So over to you, Rachel.
Rachel Suff (RS): Thanks so much, Claire. I'm so pleased that we're having this webinar so that we can bring menstrual health, menstruation, periods, just more into the light so that we don't have to experience shame, embarrassment and silence, as Claire described. And yes, as Claire said, we've done great work, many of us, to bring menopause transition more into the light. And that's exactly what we want to do with menstruation and menstrual health. But yes, current provision is at a very low level.
And on the next slide, and even the next one, actually, we can see from our health and wellbeing survey, I don't think you can make out all these figures on the graph, but our annual health and wellbeing at work survey report with Simply Health shows that, as Claire said, support and awareness, provision in workplaces around menopause has really risen. And that's towards the top of the graph. Around 46% now have some kind of provision, whether it's guidance and so on around menopause. But right towards the bottom, I think it's about a second from the bottom, is the level of provision. And that could be a policy, it could be guidance, it could be training. But towards the bottom is provision for menstrual health and menstruation. And all in all, I think it's just 17.17% of organisations are providing any kind of support framework around menstrual health. And that's what we need to tackle. That's what we need to bring right up to the top. And I think we can do it quicker than we have with menopause. It's taken four years to go from the bottom to now nearly half of organisations, but I think we can do it much quicker. Because I think the climate is more open, there's more awareness now around menopause.
And I think it's quite a natural progression for many organisations to think, oh, yes, well, if we're doing things to support people around menopause, then we can definitely do the same around menstrual health because they're often related. But also we're doing it for one area of women's health and we need to do it for another. So, in terms of the specific survey that we carried out that Claire has mentioned, we wanted to understand more from people like ourselves with lived experience. So, on the next slide, you can see that we published this report. It's a survey report of over 2000 women aged 18 to 60 who currently or have previously menstruated while in employment. We published that research last month in Parliament, and the aim was to really understand what are your experiences of menstruation and how do these experiences interact with your relationship with work. On the right hand side, you can see one example of the media coverage. This is the Guardian that we had at the time, because I think awareness of the issue in terms of society more generally is starting to increase. And we were really pleased to see our report covered in Guardian and other media outlets as well. And just at this point, for clarity, I just want to explain what we mean by menstruation and menstrual health, because I wasn't fully clear when we started this project.
So menstruation, as I'm sure most of you will appreciate, is that monthly period when bleeding occurs. Menstrual health has broader meaning, and that recognises that whilst menstruation is a natural bodily function, some people might experience physical or mental health symptoms and challenges linked to menstruation. So that could be painful, heavy, irregular periods, which I've definitely experienced, but also premenstrual syndrome, PMS. Yes, I've also experienced that, but also through some more serious diagnosed, or sometimes they're not very quickly diagnosed, chronic health conditions linked to menstruation, such as endometriosis, polycystic ovary syndrome. And I'm really glad that we've got Sophie here to talk more about that side of things. But some of these conditions, and I didn't realise how many there are, they can have significant impacts, can be very debilitating in terms of how you carry on your daily life, but also work. They can also interact with fertility issues as well.
So moving on to some of the findings, what we find is that amongst our sample, those 2,000 working women, not surprisingly, the majority, 8 in 10, have experienced menstruation symptoms. And I'm sure many of us can identify with many of them, abdominal cramps at the top, feeling irritable, fatigue, bloating, low mood, but many and varied. And I think I could tick off quite a few there. And then also delving into more that relationship with work, what we find is that the majority, again, of those experiencing symptoms with their period, around 7 in 10, report a negative impact on work. And again, that's not surprising, because if you're experiencing just one, let alone several of these symptoms on a regular basis, they can really interact with your concentration levels, feeling more tired, ability to perform at work, less able to concentrate. These were some of the insights that came through to us. So this is really why menstruation and menstrual health are most definitely workplace wellbeing concerns.
And then if we move on a bit, another really interesting theme that came through the research is that over half, understandably, were unable to go into work at some point because of the impact of their symptoms. But even more interesting, I think, but not surprising again, is that around half were never able to tell their line manager that the reason for their absence was related to their menstrual cycle. And I've got to be honest, I think on the odd occasions where I wasn't able to go into work, I don't have regular periods anymore because I'm menopausal, but I don't think I've ever shared myself the reason for the absence. So, that underlines the big taboo. When we ask people why not, you can see here the main reasons that people didn't feel able to share was they felt the reason would be trivialised, they'd feel embarrassed, or that they preferred to keep the matter private, which again is completely understandable. And I think at this point, it's really worth saying that when we're talking about health and well-being issues that can seem very personal and sensitive, like menopause, like menstrual health, where some of the symptoms are very intimate, like heavy bleeding, then nobody should feel compelled to talk about them and share. I think there will always be people who won't feel quite comfortable enough. You know, myself, I've got a line manager who is male. I've had a relationship, a working relationship with him as my manager for 10 years.
It's a great relationship and I think I would still find it, I think I could say I can't come into, you know, my absences because of heavy bleeding, but I still think, you know, that would be quite a big, big thing for me to share. So, really understandable that nobody should feel compelled to share. However, the more that we create open workplaces, the more that these issues are just talked about, more, then I think the easier it will be for many people to talk about periods, to talk about menstrual health and then be able to seek support if they need it. So, creating that culture and that openness, I think, is a really important step in creating those kinds of compassionate workplaces because these are legitimate, important working health issues. So, what we also find, to underline that point, is that employees do want support. And it's been a theme coming through all of our research, really, around fertility issues, pregnancy loss, all the sort of issues that Claire mentioned, also around menstrual health. People do want support. But as we see on the next slide, only 12% of organisations, according to our research with individuals with lived experience, that survey of 2000, only 12% of organisations are providing any support. So it's really, really low. We've got a really big gap.
And what we can see as well from our research is that providing that workplace support makes an enormous difference to people. It normalises it. It takes away the embarrassment, the shame. It tackles the stigma. But also what our research found was that those individuals who received support were significantly less likely to say that their menstrual health symptoms were negatively impacting their career progression. So, that was a really significant finding pointing to the need for organisations to treat menstrual health as a legitimate, important workplace wellbeing issue. Now, just moving on very quickly, because I'm going to allow our next panellist to speak. Our guidance is on our website. It's there to download for everybody and it will have much more detail on how organisations can best promote good menstrual health and support more awareness and that open culture at work. There's a lot more detail on our website, but I just wanted to outline some key principles. And this is based on our research with women experiencing menstrual health issues and also great organisations that we worked with as well. And I think I've talked quite a lot about that first sort of banner, which is around building an open and inclusive culture where we can talk about periods and share experiences and access support.
And then part of creating that open and supportive culture is taking positive steps, being proactive in terms of raising awareness. And this is very much the kind of work I think that Sophie will talk about as well that she does with organisations. So how to make that a reality. But it's about breaking down that stigma. And we can do that in so many different ways by providing information, by training events, by communicating positive messages that the organisation will support you, by leaders taking it seriously, by managers being open and supportive as well. So, lots of ways you can create that culture, promote awareness. And then there is a real piece on the third banner to do around offering helpful support. You do need those practical pathways to support whatever they might be. Again, there's more detail on our website.
Does your absence management policy, for example, provide enough flexibility and responsiveness around taking time off for menstrual symptoms? So do you penalise, for example, if somebody is genuinely saying they've got a menstrual health issue and they don't feel well enough to work, it would not be helpful and it would be an additional stressor to use a trigger system in that situation. So, it's thinking through what policies you provide already and making sure that they're supportive and take on board the impact of menstrual health issues. And then line managers are so important. The final banner providing training, but also making sure that they're confident, they're not embarrassed, they know what support and policies could help people experiencing menstrual symptoms because they really are a gateway in that respect. So, very important that they can bring that compassion and sensitivity to conversations with people in their team. And now I'm going to hand over to the next panellist. That finally is a QR code. So if we leave that there for a second, that will take you through to our resources around menstrual health and menstruation.
CMC: Brilliant. Thank you so much, Rachel. I think a really good overview there and some really strong statistics about the impact of menstruation at work, but also some of the practical, helpful things that organisations can do to properly support employees. But I think we'd probably all agree that quite a bit more work is needed in this space. So thanks so much, Rachel. I would now like to hand over to our second panellist, who is Sophie Richards, to hear more about her own lived experience, really, and the work that she's been doing at the Endospectrum to help educate and empower individuals and organisations around endometriosis and menstrual health. And Rachel and I had the pleasure of listening to Sophie up at our CIPD Wales event recently. So over to you, Sophie.
Sophie Richards (SR): Thank you so, so much for the introduction and for welcoming me into another one of your events. I think what you do is incredible as an organisation and what you offer your members is invaluable. I just can't believe that you do all of this extra research when no one else is doing it. So thank you so much again. And I know Rachel, you've covered a few stats, but I just want to have one more. So, if we go on to the next slide.
So you mentioned about how businesses aren't really doing enough at the moment, and we're seeing that impact in how many women are leaving the workplace. And this is one of the most powerful stats that we can look at. So, we know as a generation and as a society that we're now moving towards having equal rights for women and people who menstruate in the workplace. But when you actually look at the data, it's just words, it's not actually coming through. So, when we look at men and women in the same position, a third of women are leaving, this is a fifth, due to burnout, and that was resulting in leaving work. So when we look at, okay, well, what is driving this, this entire webinar is about menstrual health. So, I'm sure that's a bit of a giveaway for you. But we aren't looking at menstrual health as an overall driver of overall wellbeing for women and people who menstruate. And that is what I sort of learned with my own experience with endometriosis.
So if we go on to the next slide, a little recap, I know I've only got 10 minutes in this session today, but I want to give you my personal journey with endometriosis and my personal menstrual struggles. And then I will give you real-life tips that you can implement in work today, so that you can go ahead and be part of those organisations that are actually helping to recover the problem that we're having now with health at work. So, let's start with my journey. So, I get very, very personal with my talks. If we go on to the next slide. There we go. I get very, very personal. I show real-life pictures, because unless you show someone's personal journey, you can never really see what's happening in their shoes. So I always struggled with menstrual pain.
I was having really, really heavy periods. They were very, very painful. And I was lucky. I got my first period very late. I was 17, or almost 17. So, all of my friends had had theirs. And to be honest with you, I was quite jealous at the start. I was like, oh, my gosh, when is my day going to come? And it did. And I just couldn't believe that my peers were all going to schools, they were doing their exams, they were going to university, they had jobs. And the periods weren't affecting their lives. And I knew a handful of people were struggling with something similar. But I was just like, what is going on? I was having horrendous painful periods, I was bloating horrifically. I had raging acne, you can see on the screen there. Chronic fatigue. So I was 17, 18, 19, having to take two hour naps in the middle of the day, when I'm supposed to be sort of in my prime time, I knew something was wrong. And I had horrific food sensitivity.
So you can see the bottom two pictures, my face would blow up, my eyes would close down as if I was having an allergic reaction, and my stomach would bloat out. So, like everyone else in these situations, when something's wrong, you go to the doctor. And they said painful periods are normal, which is part of the menstrual health problem that we have now. So, if we go on to the next slide, you'd think that going back and forth to the doctor for at least a couple of years, you might have got to the bottom of the problem that was happening with me. But that was not the reality. It was five years later, I was diagnosed with a condition called endometriosis, which is something that 10% of women and people who menstruate struggle with. It's an incredibly painful condition to manage, especially if you haven't had the right surgery. And that's what happened to me, it was undiagnosed for years, I almost had to drop out of university, I couldn't get jobs because I was genuinely too ill all the time. And then I was lucky enough to find the right doctor, I had the right surgery. And then the most important thing that happened in terms of my career development, COVID happened, and it was an awful time for everyone. But in terms of my learning, we went virtual, which meant that I now had access to what my peers had, I couldn't go to lectures in person. So I was really struggling. And now I was able to do my lectures from home, even if I was unwell on my own time.
So everything was looking up, I got my dream job, it was a blue chip company, everything's fantastic. And I started a blog to share my experience and raise awareness on what I've gone through, because I'd had a couple of wrong surgeries, five years of misdiagnosis, and a lot of pain. And I didn't want anyone else to struggle with that. But what I want you to keep in mind is that journey was five years of struggling through A-levels, university and jobs. And I'm one of the lucky ones, the average diagnosis time for endometriosis and conditions similar is seven to 10 years. And there will be people like me in your organisation struggling with these symptoms, whilst also trying to progress through their career. And like Rachel said, there are people struggling, and they are too embarrassed and too ashamed to bring up these topics at work, because it's to be, we don't talk about them. But we should. And that's exactly what I do now.
So if we move on to the next slide. So, I said I got my dream job, I got my blog, I had my endometriosis diagnosis, everything is looking up. And unfortunately, there wasn't too many resources about endometriosis at the time. But because I'd had the surgery, things were looking a bit better. But what has happened was when I went into the workplace, I was very fortunate, I had a fantastic manager. And I've got a few key lists here. And if you want to take a screenshot of this, you're absolutely welcome to. But he had very good open communication with me, he was open about his personal life. And so I opened about endometriosis, and how at certain points in my cycle, I found it difficult to work in person in the office. Because for people with endometriosis, adenomyosis, PCOS, perimenopause, menopause, which happens to 100% of women and people who menstruate, there are different points in the month that you might struggle with being in person or going to events. So, everything was fine, we had brilliant, reasonable adjustments that were in place. My cycles were regular, because stress is a very big impact on menstrual health. So I had no stress, everything was great. I was healthy, happy, thriving, and things were going really well. And as happens in every organisation, you get promoted or your manager moves on, and then change of management happened. And this is when my life just took a complete spiral. So even though I had my diagnosis, and even though I've had the correct treatment, endometriosis is chronic, as are many menstrual health conditions.
And so it's something that you need to constantly manage. And I was extremely, extremely stressed in my new role with my new manager, who had an attitude that women were difficult, they were emotional, hysterical, and dramatic. All things that my doctor told me that was going on with me before my diagnosis, and all reasonable adjustments went out of the window. And I actually had a surgery for my endometriosis. And he called me the next day and said that as I wasn't able to come into the office, he thought calling me for a brainstorming session was appropriate, considering I couldn't actually come in and do my job.
So, there were clear issues in that workplace, and they were a huge global organisation. So, when people go, oh, this would never happen in my business. Unfortunately, people leave managers, not the business themselves. And so it's so important that we have management training, because often we have problems that people aren't comfortable speaking out. I did, I did speak out. And unfortunately, the missing link was the management there. And so even though I love my job, I love the company in general, I just wasn't able to work under that manager. And it became very, very difficult, especially when it came to fertility treatment. Part of endometriosis can be fertility. Again, endometriosis is one of many conditions that can impact your fertility. And it just became impossible. So what happens next, if we click on to the next slide.
This is something that can happen to absolutely any woman, and anyone who menstruates. When stress impacts or comes into our cycle, it can cause irregular cycles. And it can cause feelings of anxiety, depression, and unable to cope with normal tasks. So, you might have people who used to be really competent, fantastic and confident in their job. And all of a sudden, they're coming in without that same zest. And sometimes it's because they're really stressed, and it can come under their menstrual cycle. I wish we had more time to cover this properly. But if you'd like to, you can get in touch later. And we can do that in a separate occasion. But this is a huge picture of how important menstrual health is to overall wellbeing. Because if your menstrual cycle has one thing missing, and stress can be an impact, endometriosis, PTOS, perimenopause, menopause, it can have a huge impact and can genuinely result in people feeling anxious, feeling depressed, not being able to sleep, and not being able to do their job properly.
People aren't educated on this. In general, we were never taught this in school, let alone in businesses. And now we have an opportunity, because it's such a more open work dynamic place, we can do this now at work and support the women that we have in the workplace. So, if we move on to the next slide. There we go, perfect. So when I had this experience, I mentioned I'd started a blog to raise awareness on endometriosis. And I thought, well, I want to share my experience at work with people. And I said, could someone let me know if they've had this experience? And bearing in mind, just to give you some context, I would get maybe 20 to 30 messages every day on my Instagram blog, and in 24 hours, I put this story up. And within one hour, I had almost 600 messages saying all of their experiences that they had, and unfortunately, only about 5% of those were positive. So I thought, is this anecdotal? Or is there data to show this? And this is where the CIPD has come in with this phenomenal wellbeing survey, report. And there are a few key pieces of data that I want to pull out that supports what people were telling me as well.
So, if we go on to the final slide. Brilliant. So 43% of businesses said that they didn't have the line manager skills or the confidence to support their employees at work. However, there's a huge, huge, huge opportunity to actually boost employee engagement. So, that is why I have developed the Endospectrum, which is a menstrual health wellbeing consultancy, where we attack these two things. We give employees the tools they need to work with their menstrual cycle, whether that's whether they're menstruating, so they're typically in their younger years, perimenopause or menopause. So, we educate on what happens to your body so that you know what's going on. And you can feel like you have a little bit more control and tools. But from a management side, actually understand how you can support your employees in an appropriate way. Because like you can see in the bottom pie charts, on the on the right hand side, we can see that 15% of companies are now sort of looking up and realising that menopause is something that we need to adapt for in the workplace if we want to keep our valuable female and menstruating population. But only 4% are looking at menstrual health.
So, when we're talking about the endometriosis, the adenomyosis, the PCOS and all of those other conditions, we're not really doing it at work and we need to, it's just as important as menopause. So, if we move on to the next slide. These are the things that you can do right now at work. Again, you can take a screenshot of those. And that is just the tip of the iceberg. It's the open communication, stop guessing and ask your employees what they need. Having easy access to a toilet. A third of women struggle with incontinence. So yes, easy access to toilets is something that people really, really need. Flexible working, bringing external speakers in. This is what I do full time now, because I know that not everyone is comfortable having these conversations at work. 92% of employees do not feel comfortable opening up to their colleagues. So, having someone come in and break that ice for you can be really helpful. And things like pain relief, standing desks. I can't sit down all day, otherwise my endometriosis plays. So for me, I have to have a standing desk. And you can see in the corner here, how much it can cost you not doing these things in the workplace. Here at Cigna it costs UK businesses 6 billion per year, and that continues to grow. So if you are interested in doing more menstrual health in the workplace, if you go on to the final slide, all of my contact details are on there, please do get in touch. I love it. It's my absolute passion. I do it all day and every day, either on a one on one basis with people or in a B2B corporate setting. So please get in touch. We can have a chat and hopefully get you on a call.
CMC: Brilliant. Thank you so much, Sophie. I think really great to hear about all the active work that you're doing in this space. Also, sharing your own experiences. It's so educational, I think, and you're really inspiring. So thank you so much for that. I'm now going to hand over to our final panellist, who is Sharon Lord, to hear about Northern Care Alliance's holistic well-women strategy, which was published alongside our practical guidance. And we were really grateful to have that case study. So over to you, Sharon.
Sharon Lord (SL): Oh, thank you. And thank you for inviting me today to share our journey, really. I've just popped in the chat the case study, actually, which, you know, people can read about. I'm going to be presenting what we're doing now from the organisation's perspective. If you want to go on to the next slide.
I just want to put it into context, first of all, though, because the Northern Care Alliance is a huge NHS organisation. There's 22,200 colleagues who work within the organisation. So, really, from our approach to improve our women's health and support around women's health, we needed to make sure that it was recognised. So, we already have a health and wellbeing programme in place called SCARF, which is our overarching wellbeing initiative. And actually, that means anything that we develop, we develop under the branding of SCARF. And that's really important because our colleagues now know where to go for that health and wellbeing information. And that's really key from an organisation's perspective to so that colleagues know where to go and also to make sure that the communications and the marketing around any kind of initiative that you're doing is robust and comprehensive. So, people can get to the support that they need, which I'll describe in a little bit. Next slide, please.
Yeah, so under our SCARF programme, just to kind of let you know, we have a support folder, really comprehensive support folder, which now our Well Women's Strategy sits in. So, that is sent to all of our colleagues across the organisation. So, it's a key, again, that people know where to go and how to access that information. We have an intranet page that's specific to SCARF. And you can see on that middle graphic there on the bottom, that green S, so that's our SCARF tile. And that's our landing page on our intranet. So obviously, really championing our wellbeing programme within the organisation. Next slide, please. Thank you. So last slide around SCARF, really, as you can see, it is really comprehensive, it's holistic and it's broken down to different sections so people know how to navigate to what support is available. So obviously, our Well Women's Strategy now has its own tile because we felt that that needed its own tile within our SCARF pages. So, we direct people to that area on the intranet. So, that bottom part of that slide there is just showing that we actually, my team is kind of responsible for developing new policies around anything to do with health and wellbeing. And as part of our Well Women's Strategy, we have developed a number of policies. So, we've developed an endometriosis and menstrual health policy, which is about to go for ratification, which is absolutely amazing. We have a new pregnancy loss policy, a new fertility support at work policy and obviously a menopause policy as well. And on the back of the menopause policy, we wrote our reasonable adjustments policy. At the end there in the orange square, it describes a wellbeing and attendance management policy.
So, a new policy that we're launching in January. And just going back to what was said earlier, so that policy is removing triggers. And in the training for that policy for managers, we've got a case study around endometriosis and menstrual health as well. So, in that case study actually describes how a colleague was poorly managed under the old policies and how actually they could be managed under the new policies. So, a really supportive approach and champion our Well Women's Strategy really. And that training will be delivered to all our managers. Next slide, please. Sorry, Claire. Thank you. Okay.
So, just delving into our Well Women's Strategy a little bit more then. So, what we did, we developed a Well Women's Strategy group. So, there was over 40 of us who got together from all kind of staff groups, HR, staff side, EDI, to really kind of collaborate and co-create what we wanted to do around our Well Women's Strategy. And this driver diagram kind of describes the outcomes of that strategy group. And we have our primary drivers where we wanted to put our main focus on. So, they were the areas that we wanted to do. And that was around making sure that we had the right information, the right support. We're providing information and training of having meaningful conversations around women's health and women's health concerns, the right policies and guidance in place, and a really good, strong communication and marketing to get to our colleagues because we're such a big organisation. Next slide, please. Thank you.
Okay, so what we've done to date is that we have trained a number of menopause advocates and endometriosis champions by some key external organisations to our organisation, so Endometriosis UK and HEMPICT. And we have developed our in-house awareness sessions that are now running with the menopause awareness sessions. We started, I think, in March and endometriosis, we started in October. With the menopause, we've been sold out since we launched, which was absolutely fantastic. And we've now rescheduled for 2024.
So, there's obvious real interest there. We want to do some more work around senior managers accessing that training now and maybe male colleagues as well. Not to say that we don't have any male colleagues joining the training, but we'd like to kind of promote that a little bit more with our male colleagues. We also commissioned MIST from Pregnancy Loss Awareness Sessions and Fertility Network UK as well to come and deliver awareness sessions. So, they've been running throughout 2023. So, we have the policies in place, which I've already discussed, and we've got our intranet pages and our intranet pages are showing us that, you know, a wide, a large number of people are accessing that information, which is really key, isn't it? So we have different areas for those four areas of concern on the intranet. There's lots of resources on there, lots of support, helplines, you know, ability to join kind of chat groups and so on. And we engage with MMU to do this case study really. So, the link that popped in the chat before is that case study that we worked with MMU.
And that actually showed us that we were doing the right things from that strategy group, but perhaps showing us other things that we could improve on. So, for example, maybe doing some real bespoke training around all those four areas that I've described just for managers and leaders. So, truly understanding what support is available. So, that's something that we will be looking at in the near future. We've also included in our QPS survey, a local question around, are you aware of our Well Woman Strategy? And that's for us to understand, actually, is it hitting ground? Is it filtering through? And we were really, really pleased to see that 55.3 of the people completing that survey said yes. So, we know that our communication, our marketing strategies are working. So, that's been brilliant. Next slide, please. Thanks Claire.
Okay so that slide is just showing the partners that we've worked with. So Endometriosis UK, Fertility Support, Fertility in the Workplace, HEMPICT, MIST, MMU and Unison. So, just giving a little nod to our Unison colleagues within the NCA who enabled Unison to commission our menopause part of our programme. We had an overarching business case that we wrote to support the whole of the strategy that went to board and was approved. And that enabled us to engage with MIST, Fertility Support at Work. So just a thank you to Unison as well. Next slide, please.
Just conscious of time and questions, really, so I'll be really quick. So, these are some of the outcomes of our awareness sessions that we're starting to see now. I think that might be the old slide. Sorry. Let me just, I've got it here. So, we might not have changed it. It's fine. I sent an updated slide, but it's fine. So, I'm going to read off mine. So, with the menopause, we've completed 14 and with within that training, the feedback has been phenomenal. So, we've got kind of a 87% or 100% saying that they feel confident to have a supportive conversation around menopause. And that's 87% saying that they're very confident and 100% saying they'll make positive changes for themselves and recommend to colleagues. And there's a similar theme as well through pregnancy loss and the facility support at work.
So, these are based on all the 2023 sessions that have all now been delivered. And then next year, as I've said, we've rescheduled for our menopause and our endometriosis sessions. Our next steps are to be focusing on domestic abuse and sexual safety within the organisation. And we're working with colleagues around the sexual safety charter. And we started a new parent support development group as well. So, how can we support our colleagues through the journey of becoming a new parent? Next slide, please. Thank you. So, this is one of our many stories from the awareness sessions that we've been provided. This was an email to myself, actually, but we've got lots of other examples of the qualitative data through our feedback from our surveys. And as you can see, this lady has really benefited from A, the awareness session, but also knowing that the policies are in place, but also from their managers, knowing about what's happening with the Well Woman Strategy and what support is in place as well. So, we can see a real change in the support that's being offered. And then that word cloud there, we've only started endometriosis and menstrual health training in October. That was from the first session that we delivered. And I thought that was really impactful, actually, because it describes what our colleagues are experiencing in work. And actually, the feedback from after this session has been extremely positive. And I've read it in the chat before as well, that, you know, just shining a light on these conditions and offering that avenue of support and resources that are available, it's been really beneficial for our colleagues.
Next slide, please. I think I've touched on the next steps. I'm conscious we need some time for Q&A as well. So, just quickly on the next slide, it's just to make you aware that, you know, we are inclusive in the NCA and we do have a well man strategy based on an APPJ paper, which is a call to action to government because there's no Well Man Strategy in place nationally. And that has key themes in there. And that that slide just describes some of the things that we're doing on the well man strategy as well. And I'll pause there. Thank you.
CMC: Brilliant. Thank you so much, Sharon. I think really great to hear from such a committed employer that's doing so much around these issues and also the importance of having that holistic strategy as well, I think can make a really big difference. So, we're going to go to your questions and I've already seen some really great questions coming in now. So, there's a question, first of all, from Amber, which says, are performance plans an effective way of managing women who are off work due to heavy periods? Rachel, do you want to come in on that one?
RS: Yeah, sure. I mean, it's really good to think about performance management and all the policies and procedures that you've got in an organisation to consider. Well, are they supportive? Are they appropriate for managing people with symptoms of menstruation, menstrual health and so on? And I would say in terms of performance management, I would perhaps flip it around and ask, does your performance management system take into account the impact of any underlying health conditions, including menstrual health on somebody's interaction with work and ability to meet their objectives and so on? Do they need to be adjusted to objectives and so on workloads need to be adjusted? The same with absence management, which I referred to, is that appropriate, supportive of people with genuine health conditions related to menstruation? So, trigger points, probably not helpful. And also I would suggest looking at health passports and wellbeing action plans and approaches like that, which are much more empowering and enable somebody to, with their manager, manage the fluctuating ongoing symptoms.
CMC: Brilliant. Thanks, Rachel. Sharon, you look like you want to come in a little bit on that as well, do you?
SL: I just completely agree with Rachel, really. So, that's why we're changing our sickness management policies to a new wellbeing and attendance management policy. We're removing those triggers. We're moving kind of return to works. It's more of a welcome back health review. It's having that care plan, you know, for colleagues like we do for service users and patients. It's individualized. It should be on a case by case situation, depending on their health needs through their life journey, really. So, that's the real focus of our new policy and absolutely completely agree with you, Rachel.
CMC: Brilliant. Thank you so much, ladies, for that. We've got a question from Annabelle, who is asking, what do you think is the best next step to bring male colleagues and managers on board? Sophie, do you want to have a go at that question, first of all?
SR: Yeah, absolutely. So it's the reason I approach my talks in the way I do is I have everyone in the room. So I make it a mandatory session for all employees, because whether you yourself will go through these menstrual pains, perimenopause or menopause, or you will know someone, whether it's a family member, sister, mum or colleague or someone you manage, you need to understand what's happening with these people so that you can then come up with these policies. Because I think the missing link we have is the lack of understanding and the awareness. I don't think companies and managers are bad people. They just don't have the tools that they need. And more often than not, in my situation, a lot of people that I've worked with, once they've been able to have a productive conversation with their manager, their manager's gone, oh, that's why you don't sit with a team. It's because the toilets are closer to your desk over there. Oh, that's why you don't come in this week of the month. It's not because you're avoiding the monthly team meeting. It's the fact that the team meeting has been scheduled at the same time as your most challenging point in your cycle. So, I think the number one step is that you're involved in the conversations. And it's something that I do. I know it's slightly off topic, but I go into schools and I talk about, you know, your first periods and what it's like. And my first thing is, no, boys, you're staying right where you are, because when I was in school, the boys had to leave the room. And it's absolutely not the way that we have a conclusive conversation about it. Of course, when it comes to management specific training, I understand that businesses can only afford to put their management and senior leaders on that programme. But when it comes to the foundations of the menstrual cycle and the changes that happen to us at work, everyone has to be part of that conversation.
CMC: Brilliant. Thank you, Sophie. Completely agree. I think hopefully that is changing a little bit in terms of schools, as my daughter was saying that the boys were in the room. I'm not sure how much they were listening, but they were there. So, hopefully that education piece is happening. So, we've got a question here, and I think Rachel started to really kind of give an overview of this actually in her session from Tanya. So, it says for various reasons, including religious beliefs, absolutely. Some women will not want to normalise open discussions of periods at work, particularly with men in the room. They feel it's embarrassing and inappropriate. Has this been considered and what are the solutions? So, I know, Rachel, you gave an overview in your opening session. I don't know whether, Sharon, you want to kind of build on what Rachel said or if anyone would like to add more to what Rachel kind of gave an overview of.
RS: So, yeah, I mean, it's got to be individual, hasn't it? It's got to be the person and how comfortable they feel. It may be offering, being able to have a conversation with another manager who they feel more comfortable to sit down and have that conversation with. It's just thinking a bit wider, isn't it? And giving people the opportunity to be able to talk. And I suppose it's also making sure that the individual is aware that it's a confidential conversation and be sensitive to that person's, you know, culture and requirements, really. So, yeah, yeah.
CMC: Brilliant. Thank you. Okay and also a question from Tanya around are there dangers with blurring serious menstrual health conditions like endometriosis with milder period symptoms that most or all women will experience? So, just wanted to get your thoughts, really, on that from the panel. Sophie, did you want to did you want to come in on that? Oh, I think you're on mute, Sophie
SR: There you go. Typical, we're almost at the end of the event.
CMC: I know.
SR: Yeah. So, I feel very, very passionately, even though I have endometriosis, I know it's a serious condition, but I feel passionately that everyone at some point, if they feel uncomfortable, shouldn't have to come into work. They should be able to work virtually or work in a way that is comfortable to them. So, although I totally agree that we need to realise that there's a spectrum of conditions and that some are more serious and need more reasonable adjustments, I also think that we need to holistically look at. Okay, well, why is it that so many women and people who menstruate are leaving the workforce? Not everyone has a serious health condition, but 100% of people go through perimenopause and menopause and are leaving work as a result of it. 25%of people who go through perimenopause will have suicidal thoughts. So, even though menstrual pain might be mild at some point, it will get more extreme at different points, even if you don't have something like endometriosis or PCOS. So, I think it's just looking at the general environment, realising that we have hormonal fluctuations that with or without conditions might make us feel more uncomfortable and just crafting an environment that everyone's open and honest and can say, you know what, this day or this week, I need to take a little bit more time out.
CMC: Thanks so much, Sophie. I think that's a really good overview. We've got a couple of comments in the chat saying 100% agree as well. So, that's good to see. We literally, I'm afraid, are coming to the end of our session. I don't think we can squeeze in any more questions, but I think we've covered the majority, which I'm really pleased to say. But I would just like to say a really huge thank you to all of our excellent panellists today. So, a big thank you to Rachel, to Sophie and to Sharon, and also, of course, to all of you for watching, engaging and for your excellent questions. And as I think Rachel in the chat has been putting, this webinar is going to be available on demand later today, also with the slides as well. And so, just finally, don't forget the CIPD's wellbeing support for women in the UK and Ireland with a free 24-7 telephone helpline staffed by qualified therapists and provided by award-winning workplace wellbeing provider Health Assured. Thank you so much, everyone.
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