Written by Em Roberts

The transformative power of an effective period policy

25th January, 2024   •   4 minutes

With women comprising 40% of the global workforce, the question arises: why is menstruation often neglected in workplace discussions? 

Jo is a high-performing professional facing monthly challenges at work due to their period. The absence of a period policy to access support and offer reasonable adjustments leaves them navigating discomfort and anxiety alone. Reluctant to take necessary breaks to manage symptoms which include brain fog, cramps, and mood swings, Jo’s productivity fluctuates, impacting team dynamics and business outcomes. 

A supportive period policy could transform Jo’s experience of periods in the workplace. Encouraging open communication and understanding would allow them to discuss needs openly, share experiences with colleagues, and ensure they receive the necessary support. This would enhance Jo’s wellbeing and lead to a more empathetic and productive workplace, maximising the team’s overall potential. Jo is not alone: a survey by Bloody Good Period revealed that 89% of women feel their work is impacted by their periods, and a quarter of those struggle to discuss it with their manager.

Why should you care about periods even if you don’t menstruate? 

As highlighted in Jo’s experience, a lack of communication on the subject leaves many people dealing with period symptoms without sufficient support, affecting overall wellbeing, psychological safety, and workplace productivity. By addressing the challenges associated with menstruation, workplaces can create a more inclusive and supportive environment for everyone. Recognising the importance of the period silence issue is a step towards putting the right support in place.

Spotlight on Specsavers: paving the way with their period policy   

Specsavers created a period policy to ensure period equality in their workplace. They launched support groups for those experiencing periods directly or indirectly, which created opportunities to share experiences and educate those who had little or no understanding of menstruation in the workplace. 

Specsavers provides products for all of their employees, from head office to the customer service team in stores. This has had a huge impact as many of their branches are located in industrial parks with limited access to stores selling products. They partnered with Grace and Green who are on a mission to ensure period dignity. 

Their period policy has three key elements: 

  • Access – Everyone is supported in managing their period safely and sustainably
  • Awareness – Improving the understanding around menstrual health
  • Acceptance – Removing any stigma or shame 

The impact of the period policy on employees is significant. It has created a safe space for individuals to be who they are and has supported the wellbeing of all the team. Specsavers are trailblazers in this area, and have hosted webinars with See Her Thrive to encourage businesses to follow in their footsteps. 

What is a period policy?

It’s the procedural support for individuals who menstruate: laying out adjustments, and aligning manager expectations by giving everyone a document to refer to. It breaks down stigma, fosters open and honest dialogue. 

What could a brilliant period policy look like?

  1. Provide free period products 
  • 31% of women rely on makeshift solutions to manage their periods. By providing free sustainable period products in your workplace you are helping reduce period anxiety, reduce period poverty and create a more inclusive environment 
  1. Comprehensive inclusivity and support
  • The period policy reduces stigma and embarrassment, intending to eliminate the 63% of women feeling uncomfortable discussing periods at work and, consequently, not taking necessary breaks for productivity
  • A period policy acts as a guiding document for managers

3.Create space for open dialogue

  • Encourage open conversations to break the silence around periods, create an environment where taking a sustainable sanitary pad to the bathroom is as commonplace as taking a pen to a meeting
  • Creating an open dialogue ensures a culture shift, where both those experiencing periods and those who do not feel supported, fostering an environment where asking questions about the monthly cycle is encouraged and understood
  1. Set out expectations for reasonable adjustments 
  • Addressing the 17% of women attributing period anxiety to the inability to take time off, the policy sets expectations for reasonable adjustments, such as allowing a day off for period pain and promoting flexible working arrangements 

So now we’ve looked at what a period policy could look like, how can you get started?

First consider: will you need to get senior management buy-in? Or discuss the idea with HR first? Or do you have the autonomy to go ahead and get started?

Here are some ideas to help you start putting a period policy into place.

  1. Send a survey out to employees and ask what support and knowledge they would like 
  2. Set up a focus group to gather experiences, feedback and discuss what good looks like
  3. Research what other organisations are doing
  4. Look at getting a budget to offer sustainable sanitary towels and period pants 
  5. Normalise talking about periods by having period champions who can feedback and signpost people to resources and further support

3 key takeaways

  1. Impact. Periods impact everyone in the workplace, not just those who menstruate. Create a period-friendly workplace to eliminate stigma so everyone feels empowered to ask questions and access support
  2. Create a period policy. A policy aligns managers on what support is available and is a tangible demonstration of the company championing menstrual equality in the workplace. 
  3. Open dialogue. Assess employee needs through surveys and focus groups, involve people who menstruate and people who don’t. Normalise discussions around the period policy by creating channels for open dialogue and appointing period champions

At Higson we have built a workshop around challenges in the workplace for people who menstruate. If you would like to learn more about how to be a period champion, or how you can support your employees then please get in touch.