A UK company is set to create a ‘period policy’ to give long-suffering women time off work during their monthly cycle.
The new initiative hopes to tap into female staff’s “natural rhythms” in order to create a happier and more productive work environment - and it could be a UK first.
I was talking to someone the other day and they said if it were men who had periods then this policy would have been brought in soonerBex Baxter
Periods are still often considered a taboo, despite affecting half the population, and women can feel embarrassed to admit they are in pain.
Company director Bex Baxter, who employs 31 staff - seven male - at the social community group Coexist, wants to change the stigma around ‘women’s issues’.
Bex, 40, said: “I have managed many female members of staff over the years and have seen women at work who are bent over double because of the pain caused by their periods.
“Despite this, they feel they cannot go home because they do not class themselves as unwell.
“And this is unfair. At Coexist we are very understanding. If someone is in pain - no matter what kind - they are encouraged to go home.
“But, for us, we wanted a policy in place which recognises and allows women to take time for their body’s natural cycle without putting this under the label of illness.”
Bristol-based Coexist employs mostly women and wants to acknowledge the monthly trauma many experience - and hopefully increase workplace productivity.
Bex said: “There is a misconception that taking time off makes a business unproductive - actually it is about synchronising work with the natural cycles of the body.
“For women, one of these is their menstrual cycles. Naturally, when women are having their periods they are in a winter state, when they need to regroup, keep warm and nourish their bodies.
“The spring section of the cycle, immediately after a period is a time when women are actually three times as productive as usual.”
It’s a cause close to Bex’s heart, as she suffers from bad cramps every month.
“My team here have always been very generous - I’ve been able to take time off when I’ve needed it, but always put it back in again. But until now there haven’t been any formal guidelines.”
Coexist employs 24 women and seven men - and the idea has been welcomed enthusiastically by staff of both genders.
Bex added: “For too long there’s been a taboo surrounding periods - I have women staff telling me they’re ashamed to admit they’re in pain.
“I want us to break down that shame and replace the negativity with positivity. Both men and women have been open to the ideas - especially from the younger generation.
“I was talking to someone the other day and they said if it were men who had periods then this policy would have been brought in sooner.
“It’s not just about taking time off if you feel unwell - but about empowering people to be their optimum selves. If you work with your natural rhythms, your creativity and intelligence is more fulfilled.
“And that’s got to be good for business.”
But ‘period policies’ are no new thing.
Menstrual leave began in Japan in 1947 and other countries including South Korea, Taiwan and Indonesia also have laws in place allowing women time off work when they are on their period.
Most recently, the Chinese province Anhui has agreed to give women paid monthly leave if they produce a doctor’s letter.
And sportswear giant Nike is thought to be the only worldwide company to officially include menstrual leave as part of their Code of Conduct.
Bex and her team plan to formulate the policy together as part of a seminar at Hamilton House, Stokes Croft on March 15 called ‘Pioneering Period Policy: Valuing Natural Cycles in the Workplace’.
The seminar will tackle questions surrounding the issue, such as whether taking time off due to periods threatens women’s employability or whether it is unfair to men.
It will also explore whether it is feasible for women to take time off every month.
Seminar leader Alexandra Pope believes “cycle awareness” helps both men and women become more productive.
Pope said: “In the past any proposal to allow women to for example have time off at menstruation has been derided by men and women alike. In this context menstruation is seen as a liability or a problem. Or as women getting ‘special treatment’.
“The purpose of this policy initiative is to create a positive approach to menstruation and the menstrual cycle that empowers women and men and supports the effectiveness and wellbeing of the organisation. To restore the menstrual cycle as the asset it is.”