5 Ways To Create A Period-Friendly Workplace
In our conservative society, issues like menstruation are not often talked openly. Although ladies are well-versed in the matter, it’s a relatively alien subject to guys. The average person spends more than 90,000 hours in their lifetime at work, which is a lot!
Did you know that approximately 80% of Malaysian women have difficulty performing at work due to menstruation?
Ever wondered what women go through during their time of the month? Imagine you’re going about your usual day at work, then suddenly you feel an immense pain that leaves you bending over and feeling nauseous. What do you do then? Alert your colleagues? Call an ambulance? Prepare a lawsuit against the owner of a mamak restaurant down the road? – Oh wait, that’s already a different case.
Period pain is real and it is not something to be taken lightly of.
Due to the lack of understanding, it prevents women from being open about their period pain when it is a perfectly natural bodily function. Some women can hardly get out of bed in the morning due to severe cramps and they have to keep it to themselves. By implementing a “period policy” in the workplace, women can be more open about their period pain and they will feel as though their experiences and their discomfort are valid, rather than stigmatized and shamed. Remember, women don’t get to choose to menstruate.
Some of these period-friendly initiatives are:
The first step that a company should really consider is introducing paid menstrual leave. The idea of this requires a lot of proper organisation. Menstrual leave is distinct from sick leave and should never be treated as such. Netizens expressed that applying for MC is already an issue in Malaysia’s work culture, let alone something as unfamiliar as menstrual leave.
There is also the other side of the coin which RedTalks, a Malaysian NGO highlighted. They explained the possibility of this leave being abused by women who do not actually need it, which is why some employers have the option to offer this leave as unpaid.
We do hope that menstrual leave could be a thing here in Malaysia to lift women’s physical burden during menstruation. If this isn’t introduced yet, the least that can be done is to help women relax in the workplace.
Which leads me to my next point.
Flexibility and relaxing space in the workplace
Employers should dedicate a relaxing space in the workplace for women to rest. Perhaps they can provide bean bags or reclining chairs around the workplace.
In addition, employers could offer women a more flexible routine by allowing them to take regular breaks throughout the day. Taking a short break to relax and lie down can actually help women feel more relaxed, focused and productive throughout the day.
Have sanitary products available in washrooms
Employers could also provide free sanitary products at their workplace. This helps to remove any inconvenience that women may face if they have left their sanitary products at home. It’s safe to say that most women have experienced rushing to the store to buy a packet of pads or asking a colleague to discretely spare us a tampon while in pain at least once. Based on the survey I did with my colleagues, some claimed that they resorted to using toilet rolls temporarily instead of pads in times of desperation.
Convenient menstrual waste disposal
Employers could provide an adequate amount of bins around the workplace that are emptied and cleaned out on a regular basis as this will support a woman’s menstrual health tremendously. By not having a bin in the toilet, they don’t have a place to dispose of their used sanitary products which may lead to prolonged usage of sanitary pads. This is unhygienic and can cause infections.
Many companies provide their new employees with a newbie pack. What about a monthly comfort pack for your female employees? Include “menstrual necessities” such as heat pack, hot water bottle, chocolate bar, chocolate powder or Panadol Menstrual. This will really help your female employees feel acknowledged and appreciated.
Before the next time you say “Eh, you PMS ah?”, remember, menstruation should not be something you use to discriminate or criticize another person. Instead, the simplest thing you can do for them is to respect their feelings and even offer physical or emotional support.
We hope you learnt a thing or two from this article. Let us know in the comments below if you tried any of them and if they worked for you!
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