Unacceptable lack of employer support for menstrual and menopausal symptoms laid bare in report
Bullied, harassed and victimised. That’s how some women in the workplace say they’re treated if they need to take time off for period-related issues.
For some, their experience when raising problems is so bad they’ve even quit their jobs, according to a new report shining a light on a silent struggle faced by countless women in the workforce.
The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) questioned more than 2,000 working women for its ‘Menstruation and Support at Work’ which was published this week. It found 69% of participants had been subjected to a negative experience in the workplace due to their menstrual symptoms. Concerningly, only 1 in 10 women stated their organisation had a support system in place for menstrual health.
These figures raise serious questions about the inclusivity of UK workplaces and indicate a stigma surrounding women’s health still exists within the workforce. The report found some women have resorted to missing work, going on unpaid leave, and even leaving their jobs due to lack of support and flexible working options.
Participants reported feeling guilt, shame, and embarrassment over their period-related absences.
It is unacceptable that almost 90% of employers have little to no support in place for women experiencing menstrual symptoms, and it is clear this is posing a threat to the wellbeing of women in the workplace.
These findings have been released shortly after the concerning reports of women being victimised and harassed for raising concerns about menopause in the workplace were circulated in the media.
Last month, an employment tribunal in Leicester hosted the final hearing of Maria Rooney’s discrimination case against her former employer, Leicester City Council. Rooney, a former children’s social worker, claimed she has been the subject of bullying, harassment, and victimisation after she raised concerns of debilitating menopausal symptoms that were causing her serious issues in the workplace.
Ms Rooney stated she felt betrayed after her employer of 12 years showed a lack of support when she began to experience symptoms such as low mood, brain fog, and fatigue back in 2017.
By 2020, Rooney had pursued multiple claims against the council, including unfair dismissal, sex discrimination, and disability discrimination, but unfortunately these claims were all dismissed in the employment tribunals.
Upon appealing to the Employment Appeals Tribunal, it was held in a legal first that the previous rulings had erred in law, and Ms Rooney’s symptoms were in fact severe enough to fall under the scope of disability for the purposes of the Equality Act 2010.
The precedent set in this ruling is a significant victory for women’s rights in the workplace, and hopefully indicates the start of a societal shift in the acknowledgment and consideration for female health concerns.
Amid the concerning findings reported by CIPD, it would be highly welcomed to see a similar precedent set for severe menstrual symptoms.
Ultimately, the CIPD report has shed light on yet another struggle faced by countless women in the workforce, showcasing that hidden biases and discriminatory attitudes towards women, and more specifically female health concerns, are still at large.
It’s clear UK employers must do much more to promote inclusive and supportive working environments. It is hopeful that the Flexible Working Bill, which is set to come into force in Spring 2024, will inspire positive changes in the workplace.
Workplace bullying and harassment should not be tolerated. If you have been the victim of harassment or bullying at work, we encourage you to reach out to Bolt Burdon Kemp for a free and confidential conversation with one of our experts.