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UK falls short of 'basic employment rights' in lack of menstrual leave

Women want workplace period leave policies as they don’t believe UK employment law supports those who experience severe menstrual symptoms.

Nearly all (96%) women surveyed by period care company Yoppie said their employer does not offer any sort of menstrual leave.

When asked if they would support or oppose a PMS leave policy becoming a legal workplace requirement, 84% stated they were in favour.

Just 6% said they were strongly against the idea.

Daniella Peri, Yoppie founder, said the UK continues to fall short of basic employment rights by constantly ignoring the issue of menstrual leave.

She told HR magazine: “While those nations that already offer some form of leave might not be getting it absolutely right, they’re miles ahead of us.

"Some will argue that our general sick leave policies are sufficient to cover menstrual leave, but if a woman is having to take a day or two sick leave every month compared to the average of four or five sick days a year, employers may start to look unfavourably on them.”

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Kate Underwood, managing director and HR director at Kate Underwood HR and Training, said flexible working could be the answer to solving female employees’ PMS issues.

She told HR magazine: "As there is the potential to plan for menstrual leave, organisations could consider offering temporary flexible working around the time of the month for PMS sufferers.

"And of course, with Statutory Sick Pay (SSP), the three waiting days [before SSP is used] will only be applied to the first absence, so long as the periods of incapacity from work are less than eight weeks apart.”

Underwood said if the required leave is a monthly occurrence, then the individual will be entitled to SSP for all the subsequent absences.

“This would mean they would be eligible for any time off work at the full absence rate rather than having to have three waiting days each time," she said.

Existing menstrual leave in the workplace is mainly seen in Asia.

Specific examples include Indonesia where employees are granted two days of menstrual leave each month.

Peri added that stigma plays a role in preventing women from taking time off work when PMS hits, in fear they won’t be treated equally against their male counterparts.

“Menstrual symptoms are not something that can be ignored - for some women, the pain can be debilitating and the ability to focus on work all but vanishes," she said.

“Unless, as a nation, we start to differentiate between unforeseen bouts of sickness and the cyclical nature of period pains, stigmas that have been allowed to grow will only continue to flourish.

“Instead, we must work to ensure that menstruation is put on the political agenda and discussed at the highest level."

Yoppie surveyed 1,419 UK women aged between 19 and 54 on 18 June 2021.