Majority of women say period symptoms leave them struggling in work – but half won’t tell their boss

More flexible working practices and better support are needed, say experts

Maya Oppenheim
Women’s correspondent
Monday 20 November 2023 06:25 GMT
The most common symptoms were abdominal cramps, irritability, tiredness and bloating
The most common symptoms were abdominal cramps, irritability, tiredness and bloating (Getty)

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Louise Thomas

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The majority of women say period symptoms have affected their ability to do their job. Four-fifths of women who experienced difficult symptoms said they had worked when they have felt too poorly to do so, while just over half said they had not been well enough to go to work. Around half of those said they never tell their manager the real reason they are off sick.

The study by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), which polled more than 2,000 women, found the most common symptoms were abdominal cramps, irritability, tiredness and bloating.

Researchers found around six in 10 of the women polled found it more difficult to concentrate and half were more stressed. While around half felt less patient with co-workers or clients while they were on their periods.

Asked why they were not honest with their bosses about period symptoms, 45 per cent of women said they thought the issue would be trivialised and 43 per cent said they felt too embarrassed.

The CIPD, which is the professional body for human resources and people development, has now urged workplaces to train managers and address the stigma which surrounds menstruation.

Only around one in 10 women polled said their organisation delivered help for periods and menstrual health conditions.

Claire McCartney, a senior policy adviser at the CIPD, said: “Our latest report on menstruation and support at work underscores the need for a more empathetic and understanding working environment. Menstruation is a natural part of many employees’ lives, and it shouldn’t be a barrier to success or well-being.

“Employers can greatly improve the working lives of employees who experience menstruation symptoms by creating inclusive, supportive work environments and training managers to have a better understanding of the impact it can have.

“A lot can be done without huge cost to businesses including the adoption of more flexible working practices and signposting to external resources.”

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