Global Citizen is a community of people like you

People who want to learn about and take action on the world’s biggest challenges. Extreme poverty ends with you.

Girls & Women

A UK company starts giving female staff time off for period pains--sexist or nah?

Global Panorama

Remember our conversation about period pain being almost as bad as heart attacks?

Well, Coexist , a UK-based organization dedicated to bringing communities together through art, music, enterprise, and innovation, sounds like they got the message. The company has introduced a new policy allowing employees to request time off from work for period pain.

Essentially, it is “period pain leave” where female employees can choose to work from home once a month due to period pain or take a sick day because of their personal dysmenorrhea, or menstrual pain.

Coexist isn't the first company to include a time off policy for females in the workplace who have deliberating period pain, but it just may be the first UK company to take a big leap in period politics. Here are some other efforts to give “period pain leave.”

Nike introduced a menstrual leave to their code of conduct in 2007.
In Taiwan, there was an amendment in 2013 to the country’s Act of Gender Equality in Employment that guaranteed female workers three days of menstrual leave a year.
Indonesian women are entitled to take two days a month of menstrual leave (though many companies simply ignore the law).
South Korean female workers were granted menstrual leave in 2001, but the policy was seen as form of reverse discrimination.
Russia tried to draft a new law in 2013, giving females in the workplace period pain leave but it was immediately met with opposition and backfired.

Nations and advocates around the world are pushing for gender equality in the workplace and menstrual leave and period pain has entered the conversation.

Do these policies strengthen the perspective that women are weak and hormonal beings? Or do they celebrate a path towards more equality around the world by accommodating biological demands?

According to the UK’s National Health Site, 14% of females are often unable to go to work due to period pain. In addition, a different study discovered that one in 10 women were regularly bedridden by their period pain, and 40% said the pain prevented them concentrating at work.

Bex Baxter, one of the company's directors spoke out about the company’s new policy and its reasons for creating it:

“I have managed many female members of staff over the years and I 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.”

Baxter referenced that she has seen women refuse to acknowledge the compromising pain they are in because they often feel guilty or ashamed for taking any time off of work. This leaves many to suffer in silence.

Coexist is looking to break the period taboo and wants to make it very clear that, "This is not about employees taking more time off but working more flexibly and efficiently around their menstrual cycle and encouraging a work-life balance.”

This new policy seems worth celebrating but it also raises a lot of questions.

Will women taking time off from businesses seem unproductive? Is this policy actually feeding into the period taboo because it makes women seem more “vulnerable”? Is this policy sexist or even degrading? Is it helping or hurting the period conversation?

Turns out, folks across the internet were asking questions and were fueled with skepticism:

If period pain may be just as bad as a heart attack, doesn’t it seem logical to be able to have the choice to work from home or to take a sick day?

You and I both know I would not come into work if I just had a heart attack. So why isn’t it the same concept for period pain?

Coexist claims that because this new policy is optional, women do not have to follow through with it. The company’s hope is to create an environment where period pain can be spoken about in an honest way.

Baxter and her team plan to create the policy as part of a seminar titled, Pioneering Period Policy: Valuing Natural Cycles in the Workplace that focuses on how “cycle awareness” can help both men and women become more productive at work.

Really Interesting: 599 Votes so far, and 80% YES! (49% Yes, it's a great idea & 31% Yes, but I'm not sure how...

Posted by Coexist on Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Ah, good ole productivity. Maybe Coexist’s new policy will open the conversation further and finally get real research into the root causes of intense period pain (which is severely lacking!).

Opening the discussion and tackling the problem of period pain head on as an inclusive society is a step toward true equality for all. Period.