Rather than fighting a woman’s menstrual cycle, this non-profit in Bristol, England is taking steps to work with it.
Coexist, a community interest organization located in the UK, has enacted a “period policy” in which employees on their period are entitled to paid leave without claiming that they are sick–a policy that has existed in Japan since 1947.
Bex Baxter, one of the directors of Coexist, explains to the Bristol Post that the policy seeks to “[allow] women to take time for their body’s natural cycle without putting this under the label of illness.” On the topic of productivity, Baxter adds “The spring section of the cycle, immediately after a period is a time when women are actually three times as productive as usual… So it is about balancing work-load in line with the natural cycles of the body.”
According to the NHS, 90 percent of women experience period pain. That pain can be moderate to severe, with 17 percent of women reporting that the agony interferes with their daily activities and work life. John Guillebaud, professor of reproductive health at University College London, has even been quoted as saying cramping pain is “almost as bad as having a heart attack.”
Baxter cites this pain in implementing coexist’s period policy, stating:
“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… At Coexist we are very understanding. If someone is in pain – no matter what kind – they are encouraged to go home.”
Baxter’s policy is based on the work of Alexandra Pope, the founder and creator of women’s leadership program Red School. The school seeks to start conversations about women’s health in the workplace, and works to develop creative programs that benefit women on their menstrual cycles. In Pope’s view:
“The purpose of this policy initiative is to create a positive approach to menstruation and the menstrual cycle that empowers women and men and supports the effectiveness and wellbeing of the organization. To restore the menstrual cycle as the asset it is.”
Pope will be leading a seminar on the policy entitled Pioneering Period Policy: Valuing Natural Cycles in the Workplace at the Hamilton House on March 15. The seminar will discuss menstrual cycles, but will also focus on biological cycles that affect all genders in the workplace. According to Baxter, however, the comfort of female employees should be important to all genders to begin with.
Says Baxter: “If it were men who had periods, then this policy would have been brought in sooner.”