On the 8th of March, for International Women’s Day, we released an opinion piece in the Swedish press. Since then, we have received requests from international partners to translate the piece into English. You find translated version below.
24 Swedish business leaders signed the original article.
Today, the issue should no longer be up for debate. A large number of our employees menstruate, and for some, it causes problems that can make it difficult to work.
A survey by the union Akademikerförbundet SSR shows that one in five women has stayed home from work due to period-related problems. In manufacturing and traditionally male occupations, the figure is even higher.
This type of absence affects the menstruating individual in the form of loss of income and lower pensions — but of course, it also affects the business. In other words, menstruation is an issue that should interest all employers, yet is conspicuously missing in most human resources handbooks.
The good news? It takes surprisingly little effort to fix these problems.
A large part of menstruating employees’ absences can be linked to obstacles in the workplace. For example, it can make a big difference to how many employees feel at work when they are able to sit down and rest when needed, able to work from home, and able to access clean toilets with menstrual products ready.
A period-proofed workplace is something most companies can achieve without turning the entire business inside out. It often involves fairly simple measures and a mindset shift from managers and co-workers.
Here is a simple checklist, based on the combined experiences of the company Menssäkrad and the non-profit organization MENSEN, in collaboration with employers and trade unions:
Menstrual products available in the toilets. All workplaces should have toilets equipped with containers for pads and tampons.
Trash bin in the toilets. It’s important to have an easily accessible place to dispose of used menstrual products without having to carry the rubbish outside the door.
Sink and soap available. Changing a tampon or cleaning a menstrual cup requires soap and running water to avoid bacteria and illness.
Open and supportive conversation climate. Of course, no one should be forced to talk about their period if they don’t want to. At the same time, no one should need to be afraid to say what they need in front of managers and colleagues.
General knowledge about menstruation. Managers, supervisors and people with personnel responsibility should acquire basic knowledge about how the menstrual cycle, and various menstrual cycle-related conditions, can affect the health and well-being of staff.
For us, as companies and organizations that want to attract the best employees, our choice to prioritize these issues feels like an obvious one.
No one should have to stay home from work unnecessarily, and those who have to stay home should not have to feel guilty. The current situation is too costly for employees.
Conversely, there is a big benefit for us as employers. Listening, showing understanding and offering opportunities that facilitate work during menstruation is a very cost-effective way to reduce sick leave and increase productivity.
In other words, menstruation is a key issue when it comes to developing a profitable business without preventing any employee from contributing to their fullest potential.
Translation by: Chloe’ Skye Weiser. Photo: Frances Marais.