A black and white photo of a woman struggling with menstrual pain.

Image: Shutterstock

If you’ve ever had a truly horrendous period that made you want to do nothing but crawl into bed even though you had to go to work, some companies are starting to see things your way. A company in Bristol is implementing a “period policy” for its female employees that will allow them to take time off of work for period-related problems without being stigmatized.

“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. Despite this, they feel they cannot go home because they do not class themselves unwell,” said Bex Baxter, director of Coexist, which is implementing the new policy. Female employees who take these days will make up the time missed later.

“It’s not just about taking time off if you feel unwell but about empowering people to be their optimum selves. If you work with your natural rhythms, your creativity and intelligence is more fulfilled. And that’s got to be good for business,” she added.

While some male coworkers may balk at the system, gynecologist Gedis Grudzinskas believes Coexist is doing the sensible thing by allowing women to take necessary time off. “This is part of being considerate and flexible,” he says, adding that he himself would be grateful for a day off when he wasn’t feeling well.

While most women do experience some pain and discomfort during their periods, up to 14% of women experience symptoms so severe they are often unable to go to work. Some research even indicates that menstrual pain can be as bad as having a heart attack. Some days, period pain makes it impossible even to get out of bed, much less face the world. Some countries like China, Korea, and Japan have already adopted a similar period policy.

“We need to normalize periods, and if companies wish to cut the staff who suffer badly a little bit of slack, I would welcome their vision and humane approach,” said Fiona Leishman of Wellbeing of Women, a women’s health charity.

“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. I want us to break down that shame and replace the negativity with positivity,” said Baxter.