And readers answer your questions
At work last month I was in a great deal of pain from my period, a problem I’ve had for some years. When my (female) boss saw how unwell I was, she kindly suggested I go home. But why didn’t I just say ‘I have bad period pains’? I know it’s because I don
Something happens to you once a month that is painful and out of your control. You are not alone. In 2016, YouGov asked 940 women about their experiences of period pain in the workplace; 57% said it had affected their work. And yet, you feel you will be seen as weak or unreliable if you tell someone about it. Your fears aren’t unfounded: a number of studies show that women’s pain is routinely dismissed by health professionals. And other women seem to share your concern. YouGov found that only 27% of women affected by period pains told their boss and many of them (33%) pretended, as you did, that it was something else affecting their work.
The question about your rights is a tricky one. You are entitled to statutory sick leave, and you could get a note from your doctor explaining that you are affected for a day or two each month. But just because you are entitled to something doesn’t mean your boss won’t judge you.
Don’t fall into the trap of believing you are being unreasonable, either. As Mandu Reid, CEO of the Cup Effect, an organisation trying to combat period shame, says: “Having to go home for your period isn’t really any different from having to go home because of a headache – we shouldn’t have to fetishise it.” Of course, you’ll have to get your employer to see that first. Could you push for that to become a reality, for example by arguing for a responsible period policy at your place of work?
The fight is not yours alone, says Reid: “A dialogue is needed to create a future where fewer people encounter this dilemma. Those of us who don’t have period pains [or periods at all] should carry the burden as well.”
Help the manager to manage
As a manager in this sort of situation, I have two conflicting things in mind. One is that I want my staff to feel supported as part of being a good employer. It is much better all round if people don’t drag themselves into work when they are not fit. On the other hand, some people do take advantage, which is unfair to the organisation and to other staff. Working out which is which is partly about relationships and trust, and partly about formal procedures. So whatever you do, please don’t lie about it. You are likely to get caught out sooner or later, particularly as this is an ongoing condition. Then all trust is lost. That is not to say you need to go into detail, though I would hope periods are not too embarrassing to mention these days; but if you need to go for a euphemism, do it. It does sound like a condition for which you could get a fit note, as sick notes are called these days. This helps you protect yourself, but also helps the manager deal with the situation, hopefully sympathetically. QuakerActivist
Ask to work from home
I would suggest simply saying you are not feeling well, need to be at home and would prefer not to disclose your condition. Explain that being at home will give you the flexibility to work off and on as your illness allows. Also give assurances that you are committed to getting important work done and, if necessary, agree to adjust deadlines. The details of your ailment are not your employer’s business.
Just tell your boss
I’ve suffered from extreme period pain all my life and I find it easier to just tell my boss about it. I’m lucky to have a job where the boss is both female and reasonable. I’m also lucky to have worked at the same place for over a decade and have a reputation as a hard-working employee.
You are entitled to privacy
No. Your bodily functions are none of their damn business! It is overstepping the mark of normal decency to demand to know about the inner workings of the staff. This problem demonstrates how normalised the population is to businesses’ interference in private affairs.
Have you had a health check?
If you haven’t already been checked for endometriosis, do so. There’s no need to go through this agony every month; it’s definitely not normal. I remember feeling a dull ache and having flu-like symptoms every month for a day or two, but nothing so bad I had to take off work. Now (too late) I’ve found out that even that much discomfort can be caused by calcium or magnesium deficiencies.
What can ordinary people do if they see police officers moving homeless people on?