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Why Are We Still Talking About Paid Menstruation and Menopause Leave in 2021?

by Dee Sohi

The issue of paid Menstruation and Menopause leave has arisen once more to remind us that women’s health is still in contention. That’s right, we’re still arguing if women should be allowed sick leave for women with debilitating hormone related conditions. Still debating about it. In 2021.

We Care About Paid Menstruation and Menopause Leave - You Should Too

Here at Over the Bloody Moon, we’re heavily invested in menstruation and menopause (in case you didn’t get that from our name). Why? Hormone matters still aren’t taken seriously. The very topic still produces disgust, subject-changing and euphemisms. If we’re fine with a fictional hero’s blood in an epic battle on screen, we should be fine with talking about periods. People who menstruate and go through menopause at work are heroines too. There are various conditions that women put up with all their lives such as endometriosis, or fibroids that can make menstruation pain so intense that for some the pain is akin to heart attacks. Clinicians have even admitted that the pain experienced is similar.

We hear from some members of our community that their menstruation issues have impacted severely on their ability to function at work, resulting in absenteeism and them struggling to focus on their tasks at hand.

For these women, the idea of being post-menopause is something to be over the bloody moon about. However, perimenopause for some, can mean that whilst they transition, flooding may occur. Even women who have had ‘normal’ period experiences may find their flow becoming much heavier. We’ve heard stories of women becoming housebound and feeling weak and exhausted because they lose so much blood. Others say how they have to change their clothes throughout the day.

Transitioning in the Workplace

75% of women will transition through menopause at work and 80% will notice changes impacting them physically, psychologically and cognitively. Mystery, silence and stigma surround menopause in the same way that periods and hormones encouraged to be hidden.

Now we aren’t saying that women should be given special rights and treated delicately but it is important that organisations recognise the challenges that certain working women may encounter. For some, not all, the time of the month or time of life is akin to people with a disability.

The list of (peri)menopause signs is, admittedly, off-putting but most women experience mild to moderate changes; these come and go. Whilst some will notice multiple changes at once, it’s rare to experience all the signs! Luckily, there are ways you can prepare yourself before and during your early transition. Managing stress, changing one’s diet, moving daily, sleeping well and having a tribe to support, are the five golden pillars of a happy menopause and may make all the difference when managing menopause as a working woman.

Time for Change

A survey conducted in the Netherlands (2017) found that nine days of productivity is lost per year due to women enduring menstrual symptoms at work. Given that perimenopause can last on average seven years (with changes being most bothersome for four of them), it’s time to get talking about what that means for employers and employees. When the tough gets going, the women get walking so how can employers overcome the blips?

By acknowledging the impact of hormones that for some is very real and debilitating. By encouraging employees to talk about their experiences and others to empathise with their difficulties, in order to remove the stigma. By introducing sensitive policies to make reasonable adjustments for those in need.

So what’s the benefit for employers? According to the Co-Founder and CEO of Saalt, Cherie Hoeger, ‘Employees who feel heard, understood and supported are much more loyal and driven to perform.’

Diageo, Channel 4, Warner Bros and Vodafone are just some of the companies that are championing women's health with progressive policies, employee resource groups and networks, as well as extensive employee surveys. They consult with their staff on what they would find most helpful before implementing these actions.

Transitioning through menopause in the workplace is generally made difficult through a lack of education and conversation around this time of life. Companies have a brilliant opportunity to remove the stigma and signal their support for the brilliant talent and contribution women make in their organisation and teams. With a keen interest in the findings of the Gender Pay Report out in October and greater transparency with organisations sharing gender parity targets, it will become clear who is genuinely cultivating a culture of support for women in the workplace.

If you work for an organisation that you think would benefit from Over The Bloody Moon’s corporate services, head to our For Organisations page!

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