Stigma forces half of menstruators to lie about period pain at work

sanitary products, periods
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Stigma forces half of menstruators to lie about period pain at work, according to a new study.

The research, conducted by CIPD training specialist DPG, found that almost half – 48 per cent – of UK workers who experience periods recognise a definite stigma against them.

As a result of this taboo, six out of ten menstruators say they would not be comfortable discussing periods at all with colleagues or managers.

According to the research, this taboo is having numerous repercussions. Of those who suffer period related-illnesses, 57 per cent have to lie to their managers about reasons for sick days.

Almost one-third of those surveyed said their colleagues do not take period pain seriously; three-quarters of respondents hide sanitary products in their workplace; and 13 per cent have directly faced negative comments about their periods whilst at work.

These negative comments vary from micr0-aggressions such as, “it’d get better if you had kids”, to derogatory slang – “it’s because she’s on the rag” – and even accusatory statements such as, “it’s not a real illness”, and “you’re just lazy”.

The survey also found that many workplaces lack basic facilities for supporting menstruators – 27 per cent of menstruators don’t have sanitary bins at work; 62 per cent have no way of accessing sanitary products at work if they run out; and only three per cent can use heat pads at work.

Speaking about DPG’s findings, Nadya Okamoto, Founder and Executive Director of charity PERIOD said, “Period stigma enforces these walls of shame and silence around menstruation that can cause menstruators to feel unsupported and often embarrassed, especially when free period products are not easily accessible in workplace restrooms.”

“The lack of empathy and openness around periods also minimises and dismisses period pain, which is something very serious that needs to be listened to, respected, and supported.”

“Especially for people experiencing endomteriosis (ten per cent of women), uterine fibroids, or other painful periods.”

“Menstruators in the workplace do not feel that they can ask for the things they need, whether it is a tampon or a sick day because of the belief that having a period makes women weak or inferior in some way.”

“This stigma also means that women face scrutiny and criticism for their emotions, behaviour, and performance based on their period.”

Sarah Aubrey, CEO of DPG added, “This survey has highlighted that period stigma is very much a reality in many UK workplaces.”

“The conversation now needs to move towards how we tackle this issue.”

“Employers need to make sure their organisations are period positive, through the provision of facilities and creation of honest, open discussions around the subject.”

Alison Simpson
About the author

Alison is the Digital Content Editor for WeAreTheCity. She has a BA Honours degree in Journalism and History from the University of Portsmouth. She has previously worked in the marketing sector and in a copywriting role. Alison’s other passions and hobbies include writing, blogging and travelling.

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