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Period pain in the workplace

St.John Burke founded TOTM back in 2012, motivated to develop a brand he would be happy for his daughter to use.

Here, he shares his views on the 2016 YouGov study about period pain affecting women’s ability to work, which found 52% had, but only 27% had told their boss period pain was responsible.

“The cynics amongst you might think it typical that a man founded a femcare subscription service and it was my business mind which initially led me to do this, but having researched the sector it was the act of a concerned father that led me to organic cotton, which is better for your body. The thought of my teenage daughter only having access to the traditional products made me feel really uncomfortable (read why, here).

Four years on, Kate, my business partner, and I have established a strong team of, what we like to call ‘Period Pioneers’, based in Cardiff. I’m one of only two men in the office and there’s certainly no room for being shy when it comes to talking periods here.

We’re extremely open about the subject and everything associated with menstruation. Nothing is considered “TMI” (too much information) and I probably know more about my female employees cycles than their partners – and not because I track them I’d like to add. I encourage my whole team – men and women – to talk candidly; periods are normal. They’re a fact of life. And over half the population experiences them, for a large proportion of their lives. What’s the big deal people? Get over it. In fact, I think the more men who can talk about periods, the more understanding there will be and women will hopefully feel more empowered.

It seems ridiculous to me that this ‘period taboo’ topic is still a thing. You should hear some of the conversations we have in our office! When we’ve had new starters they might blush a little to begin with but that soon goes and the men will always ask lots of questions, which I think is a good thing as clearly the women in the office have the upper hand in this area!

I hope that in creating a workplace where everyone feels comfortable talking openly, my employees will always come to me with any problem, whether that be period pain, or anything else life can throw at you. Some days you might wake up and just can’t face the thought of the commute, your kids might have a lunchtime performance you should be there for, or you have a serious bout of cramps. As long as the work gets done, and within reason, I don’t mind if my team work from home or work outside office hours around other commitments.

For me, the subject of period leave comes down to flexible working hours. And this is not gender specific. I’ve always found that putting trust in your employees to just get the work done, whether that’s in the typical 9-5.30pm format or whatever variation suits individual needs and responsibilities, builds a loyal and hardworking work force. At least this is my experience.

My advice for other employers would be, invest time in creating trusting relationships with your employees. Get to know them – I’m not saying become their friends – but let them know that you’re human. I have a girlfriend, a daughter, a mother and a whole host of female friends. Boss is just one of the titles I wear. I know a fair bit about periods and whilst I will never fully understand the true extent of period pain, I’d like to think that I can appreciate how it can affect a woman’s ability to work.

It’s time we stamped out the period taboo once and for all – and its time more men stepped up to do their bit.”

We’d love to know your thoughts on this subject – join in the conversation using #PeriodPioneers.

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