Period pain has historically been brushed off as ‘women’s hysteria’, even though it can be as bad as a heart attack for some. So why isn’t it acceptable to ask for a sick day off work?
Some kind of discomfort associated with your menstrual cycle is very common, but for some, it can be debilitating. Medically known as dysmenorrhea, period pain affects around 71 percent of females and can interfere with daily activities, such as work, for around 20 percent.
It can cause nausea, fatigue, back pain, cramps, and extreme pain could be an indicator of endometriosis.
Another researcher commented severe dysmenorrhea can cause pain “almost as bad as having a heart attack”, yet it’s historically been written off as ‘women’s hysteria’ by society and our employers.
In a new survey conducted by Womanizer of 470 menstruators from 26 countries, more than half deemed it not socially acceptable to request a sick day due to period pain, while 47 percent said their employers wouldn’t deem period pain as a legitimate reason for calling in sick.
“Many experience debilitating pain and discomfort, and feel they have to push through it”, says Georgia Grace, sex coach and sexual health expert for Womanizer.
CEO at the HR consultancy ASPL Group Kris Grant says it’s important companies consult with their HR departments to find out what their employees need, like flexible working hours, or a number of days allocated to menstrual leave per year. But it shouldn’t be seen as special treatment.
“It’s simply destigmatising menstruation and showing compassion to common issues women face”, she says, adding the downside is that it could make employees uncomfortable.
“If an employee takes sick leave, they don’t need to tell their employer what it’s for,” she explains.
“When you create specific leave types, it forces an employee to put up their hand and say, ‘I’m on my period today. I can’t work.’ They might not be comfortable doing that, so being wary of employee privacy is a huge consideration.”
Georgia Grace adds: “It’s vital that this leave is presented to employees without judgment, shame or blame. Menstruators must feel safe to take leave and prioritise their health.”