Bristol-based company Coexist is set to become the first UK business to introduce ‘period leave’, offering women suffering from menstrual cramps and pain the opportunity to take time off.
According to The Independent, the company – who have a large female workforce – are introducing this initiative in an effort to give women more flexibility and “create a happier and healthier working environment.”
Company director Bex Baxter explained that they hope to tackle the taboo of menstruation by becoming the first company in the UK to introduce a policy to allow women leave if they are suffering.“There is a misconception that taking time off makes a business unproductive. Actually it is about synchronising work with the natural cycles of the body,” Baxter said. “As a manager of staff I have seen women really suffer with their periods and I have found them doubled over in a lot of pain. They feel guilty and ashamed for taking time off and often sit at their desks in silence not wanting to acknowledge it.”
We just want to celebrate and start talking about menstruation in a positive way, rather than the negativity which has shrouded the cycle.
“When women are having their periods they are in a winter state, when they need to regroup, keep warm and nourish their bodies,” she explained. “The spring section of the cycle, immediately after a period is a time when women are actually three times as productive as usual. So it is about balancing work-load in line with the natural cycles of the body.”
According to statistics, one in five suffers from Dysmenorrhea, the clinical term for painful periods, which has no definitive medical origin. One in ten also suffers from Endometriosis, a condition without known cause that causes severe period pain and occurs in women where the lining of the womb decides to venture into the pelvic area, ovaries and other places in the body, so it seems such a scheme would benefit many.
It is worth noting though, that the scheme would be optional, in that employees need only participate if they want to.
As part of the upcoming seminar Pioneering Period Policy: Valuing Natural Cycles in the Workplace, being held this month at Bristol’s Hamilton House, Baxter’s team will all be involved in developing the company’s new menstruation policy.
“For too long there’s been a taboo surrounding periods – I have women staff telling me they’re ashamed to admit they’re in pain,” Baxter continued. “’I want us to break down that shame and replace the negativity with positivity.” Indeed, a study has suggested menstrual pain can be as bad as “having a heart attack.”
The UK-based company won’t be the first to introduce such a policy; Nike also has menstrual leave written into its Code of Conduct and businesses in Japan have implemented them as far back as 1947, while South Korea, Taiwan and some provinces in China also have laws in place.