What Happens When Women at This Company Get Their Periods

March 2nd 2016

Taylor Bell

A woman's menstrual cycle can be one of the most painful experiences in her life. That being said, one British company is planning to give its female employees official time off for their periods, Time reports.

The Bristol-based company Coexist will grant its female staffers days off for their menstrual cycles in hopes of eliminating the stigma around periods and making its workplace a more efficient and creative place, according to the Guardian. In addition, the days will not be counted as sick days.

"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," director Bex Baxter told the Guardian. "They feel they cannot go home because they do not class themselves as unwell."

"And this is unfair," Baxter continued. "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 (sic) and allows women to take time for their body’s natural cycle without putting this under the label of illness."

According to International Business Times, "90 percent of women experience pain and discomfort during their period," and "14 percent of women report not being able to go to work due to pain." One expert recently reported that period pain can be as debilitating as a heart attack. Yet, most women feel uncomfortable talking about menstruation even among close family members, according to Telegraph's Hannah Betts.

Although period pain can disrupt a woman's everyday activities, Baxter said that some women at her workplace are afraid to take time off because they do not want to seem unproductive.

“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 told the Guardian. "I want us to break down that shame and replace the negativity with positivity. Both men and women have been open to the ideas, especially from the younger generation."

Shedding more insight of the significance of the move is leader of the seminar Pioneering Period Policy: Valuing Natural Cycles In The Workplace, Alexandra Pope. 

"In the past, any proposal to allow women, for example, to have time off at menstruation was derided by women and men alike," Pope told the Guardian. "In this context menstruation is seen as a problem liability or a problem. Or a women as women getting special treatment."

"The purpose of this policy initiative is to create a positive approach to menstruation and the menstrual cycle that empowers women and men and supports the effectiveness and well-being of the organisation (sic)," Pope continued. "To restore the menstrual cycle as the asset it is.”

Baxter's company is not the only one to implement some sort of policy to accommodate menstruating women.

Japan has offered women menstrual leave since 1947, and South Korean women have been entitled to take one day off each month for their menstrual cycles since 2001, according to CNN. But more recently a province in China has implemented a similar policy, while other parts of China are considering the idea.  

According to the Telegraph, menstruation in China is seen as a "special time when women's bodies are 'weaker' and need to be nurtured." Although that may not be the most progressive and feminist reason to provide menstrual leave, in a survey by Nandu Newspaper, 91 percent of Chinese women were in favor of implementing a menstrual policy, while 71 percent did not believe that a policy like that was realistic due to "company culture," according to the Telegraph.

Although the period policy may not sit well with all people, menstrual policies do legitimize women's period pain. As ATTN: previously reported, many women encounter doctors that do not have the proper knowledge to understand the severity of period pain, leaving many women to live in intense pain month to month. But policies like these often bring to light and educate others of the severity of period pain, without making women seem weak or stereotypically overemotional.