Irish employers called for more action to be taken against the stigma of period and menopause friendly policies

EMPLOYERS have been asked to draft menstrual health policies in every workplace in the country.

MEPs at the Fórsa national conference in Killarney today unanimously backed a motion calling on employers to do more to tackle the stigma attached to period and menopause friendly policies.

The union noted that last week the Spanish government became the first European country to consider a legal right to menstrual leave.

The bill provides for up to three days of vacation per month and measures including requiring schools to provide hygiene items.

Hygiene items would be exempt from VAT and made available free of charge to women in marginalized situations.

Fórsa said in a statement that menstrual leave is only available in a handful of countries, including Japan, South Korea, Indonesia and Zambia.

Only 1 percent of employees have the protection of a menstrual health policy in their workplace, according to a survey released today.

One in four respondents have been diagnosed with a specific condition — including premenstrual dysphoria, endometriosis, or polycystic ovary syndrome.

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This led to medical symptoms such as heavy bleeding, migraines and nausea.

Over 70% of respondents had taken time off because of their period and only six in ten felt able to tell their manager the reason for their absence.

Over 96 percent of the 1,800 respondents supported menstrual-friendly policies at their workplace.

Fórsa said in a statement that women welcome measures such as access to flexible working arrangements, improved training for supervisors, measures to combat deep-seated stigma and practical improvements in toilet facilities and temperature controls for them with menopausal symptoms.

The study also found that taboos around menstrual problems discourage women from discussing health issues related to periods and menopause with their bosses.

The application was brought by Fórsa’s Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown branch.

“We began discussing how much easier it was to manage some of our symptoms at home when we were dealing with difficult periods, menstrual cramps, and the effects of menopause,” said branch secretary Roisin Cronin.

Forsa Equality Officer Ashley Connolly said the issue was vital to the well-being and productivity of women workers.

“Remote work and other flexible work arrangements are key to healthier, happier and more productive working lives for many, many women,” she said.

“And it has wider implications for the way thousands of women across the country consume sick leave. This conversation needs to start, and we need to deliver results for women fast.”

Meanwhile, delegates backed a motion by the national union executive calling for statutory paid leave for victims of domestic violence.

Ms Connolly said the Covid-19 pandemic has shown that society needs to be more responsive to victims of domestic violence.

She said women living with or fleeing domestic violence are far more likely to have multiple urgent appointments they need to attend, including doctor visits, court hearings, counseling or appointments for children changing schools.

“Victims end up taking unpaid leave, using up annual leave, or even missing work and risking losing the very job that gets them out of an abusive situation, if only for a few hours a day,” she said.

She said advocacy group Safe Ireland found nearly 3,500 women and 600 children contacted a domestic violence service for the first time in the first six months of the pandemic.

“That equates to 19 women and three children a day,” she said.

Ms Connolly said that between 1996 and this year 249 women died violent deaths in Ireland and one in four women in Ireland suffered some form of abuse. Irish employers called for more action to be taken against the stigma of period and menopause friendly policies

Fry Electronics Team

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