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Periods in the workplace – a topic deemed ‘unprofessional’ by a third of male office workers

Research released today by Initial Washroom Hygiene confirms the negative stigma surrounding menstrual hygiene at work, with a third (32 per cent) of male office workers claiming it is unprofessional for women to talk about their period in the workplace.

The survey of 2,000 office workers found there is a real fear of having open conversations about how periods affect women at work. The women polled said they would feel more comfortable public speaking, admitting they had made a mistake at work, going through a job interview, or providing romantic advice to colleagues, rather than discussing their period in the presence of male colleagues.

More than half (53 per cent) of females also said they would be reluctant to call in sick to work due to period-related symptoms or discuss these symptoms with their manager (48 per cent).

Sian Walkling, Marketing Manager, Initial Washroom Hygiene commented: “Normalising conversations about menstrual cycles and how they affect women is vital to achieving period dignity and a diverse workforce. Female employees shouldn’t feel embarrassed talking about menstrual hygiene in the office, especially when they find themselves faced with a situation they may inadvertently not be prepared for.

“The fact that a third of men think a grown-up discussion about menstrual hygiene is unprofessional, and that almost half of women feel uncomfortable discussing this element of their wellness with their manager, shows how much work needs to be done.”

The research also found that close to half (46 per cent) of women say they feel uncomfortable taking menstrual hygiene products (such as tampons or sanitary pads) out of their handbags or desks in front of colleagues. A similar number (40 per cent) also claim to have used a menstrual hygiene product for longer than medically advised. The most common reason cited for this was a lack of access to a replacement product (45 per cent). Despite this, only a third (34 per cent) would feel comfortable asking their colleague for one.

The unpredictable nature of periods can often make them difficult to prepare for, with 48 per cent of the females surveyed finding themselves caught out on average, four times a year. Worryingly, 44 per cent of women said the price of menstrual hygiene products makes budgeting for their period very difficult.

Tina Leslie, Founder of Freedom4Girls, said:Women should not have to suffer in silence, especially for something as natural, and normal, as their period. It’s disappointing that in 2019 one in three men think a grown-up discussion about periods is unprofessional. No one should be forced to miss work or be put under additional stress because they have their period. At Freedom4Girls, we envisage a world in which no woman suffers as a result of the stigma associated with periods.

“We believe an important way of combatting the ‘taboo’ nature of periods is through early education. Initial Washroom Hygiene’s research found that the majority of people believe that children of both sexes should be taught about periods during primary school (68 per cent) and secondary school (82 per cent). Half of those surveyed, also believed that periods should be discussed more openly in the news (50 per cent), and portrayed more accurately within films, television and advertising (53 per cent). Having these conversations early on should help to create more open and grown-up dialogue in the workplace.”

Walkling added: “Employers are starting to understand that investing in employee wellbeing is vital in ensuring a happy and productive workplace. Considering the impact of menstrual cycles on female employees is a vital part of this, which is why we believe menstrual hygiene products need to be viewed as washroom essentials just like toilet paper, soap and hand drying facilities.”




About Sarah OBeirne

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