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Period stigma is still deep rooted in workplaces

Bloody Good Employers tackles the period taboo at work

In January 2021 we at Mooncup Ltd. ran a survey on how the pandemic had changed our period experience. While most said their experience had been worse, a significant 36,2% also said that their period experience had actually improved. The main reason for this was working from home. Participants highlighted the shame and secrecy that they still feel around their periods in the work environment. It was clear to us that there is still a massive taboo to be broken around periods in the workplace. So when we heard about the Bloody Good Employers programme launching this year, we got in touch and asked them to share their thoughts and findings on this still silenced issue.

Bloody Good Period (BGP), a charity fighting for menstrual equity and the rights of women and all people who bleed, is now gearing up for a Summer launch of its new Bloody Good Employers programme. This will tackle the gaps in knowledge, understanding and empathy around periods at work, as well as fundraise for the charity’s core work.

Almost nine out of ten of those who menstruate have experienced anxiety or stress in the workplace due to their period - Stat from Bloody Good Period

Normalising the conversation around periods

The Bloody Good Employers programme launch follows a report based on a survey of 3,000 members of the public and an employer-facing study.

Some of the report’s key findings include:

  • The overwhelming majority (89 per cent) of respondents had experienced some form of stress in the workplace because of their period.
  • More than a quarter (27%) reported never feeling supported by their employers, with the youngest respondents feeling the least supported.
  • A quarter believed that taking time off work for menstrual health issues had negatively affected their career progression.
  • A shocking 4% of respondents said they never have free access to toilets and breaks, and an additional 11% said they do “only sometimes”.
  • When asked what employers could do to help, 63% said to normalise the conversation around periods in the workplace.

“Normalising periods is essential in the workplaces of today – especially post-pandemic,” says Joe Gray, Employers Project Lead at BGP. “The reasons we’re doing the work on shaping Bloody Good Employers are really clear in our report, but in short, periods just aren’t talked about. Instead, there is persistent stigma and non-disclosure, resulting in a cycle of silence around menstruation that leaves individuals unsupported and therefore isolated.”

Taking sick leave due to our period is still taboo

Joe says that even the act of taking part in the Employers research encouraged some workplace managers to start talking and reflecting on where support is lacking.

“We know that simply starting these conversations will reap massive benefits, for employees and their satisfaction levels at work, and for employers in terms of employee engagement, productivity and retention. Building knowledge and understanding around periods, and empathy for the experiences of people menstruating at work, can and will dramatically change people’s attitudes towards work. This is what we want to help all UK employers do more of through Bloody Good Employers (BGE).”

It’s not just about free period products

Bloody Good Employers will focus on three key areas in workplaces: culture, communications and policies. Through in-depth self-evaluation, a short set of engaging workshops and ongoing assessment, employers will move towards becoming Bloody Good Employers. It’s a process of ongoing learning and improvement, not a one-off or ‘tick box’ exercise. It goes far beyond simply offering period products in bathrooms, though of course, that is important too.

Now feels a particularly good time to be examining our workplaces and taking proactive steps to improve them. “The pandemic has proved that flexible working, and working from home, around the other demands and parts of everybody’s life, is more than just possible – it can be desirable and a positive thing to do too,” says

“Supporting people when they have their periods is the right thing to do, from a business case perspective – bringing improved productivity and satisfaction, retention and loyalty – but also from a human one. Especially as we all adapt to a new, post-Covid world. Looking after staff in a way that reflects their whole selves is the right thing to do.”

Fighting period poverty

As well as revolutionising workplaces, the Bloody Good Employers programme will raise funds for BGP’s core work: delivering a sustainable flow (pun very much intended) of period products to those who otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford or access them.

Gabby started her work four years ago, after realising that period products were not routinely being given out at an asylum-seeker drop-in centre, where she was volunteering. Knowing that period products needed to be consistently available to everyone who menstruates, she started a whip-round on her personal Facebook page. Bloody Good Period is now a registered charity, with a small core team and a dedicated volunteer network, and it’s partnered with more than 100 centres across the UK.

The pandemic has seen Bloody Good Period working at six times its pre-Covid capacity, getting menstrual products to refugees and asylum-seekers, food banks, community support groups, NHS frontline workers, and those in financial hardship as a result of the pandemic. In the last year, the charity provided over 75,000 packs of period products to those who need them.

“The pattern of period products, and indeed menstruation as a whole, simply not being factored in, is the same,” says Gabby. “At the drop-in centre, in workplaces, and in countless other parts of our society, menstruation is just not actively thought about. But as an essential and inescapable biological process, it absolutely needs to be.”

BGP’s mission is not just to end period poverty, but to achieve menstrual equity – where the simple fact of bleeding doesn’t stop anyone from participating fully in society. “That of course means products are available,” continues Gabby, “but also that we can and do talk about periods; that policies are in place to recognise and respect the needs of people who menstruate; and that everyone has access to the information and support they need.”

Bloody Good Period is looking for launch partners for its new Employers initiative, Bloody Good Employers. If you’d like to get involved early with this brand new groundbreaking initiative, get in touch to introduce yourself and find out more.  

Read the full Bloody Good Employers research here

Donate to get period products to those who need them here

 

The Mooncup® is available free of charge in state schools and colleges in England. Ask your school for your free Mooncup.

 You may also be interested in:
How has the Covid-19 pandemic changed our periods?
Did someone say free period?
Tampon tax scrapped in the UK
What is World Menstrual Hygiene Day? And what does COVID-19 mean for menstrual hygiene?

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