Almost half of respondents to a survey of a leading trade union’s women membership have had to take time off work at least once due to menstruation or the menopause, while more than a quarter say they have suffered financially.
The issue was made more difficult as 60 per cent said they felt more uncomfortable discussing menstrual health issues with their employers and almost all – 95 per cent – said they would welcome workplace menstrual health policies.
The findings are contained in the results of a poll by Unite the Union intended to coincide with World Menopause Day on Wednesday. More than 1,100 of its women members across the 32 counties responded to the survey.
Forty-three per cent had been forced to take time off work due to menstrual or menopause issues, with 28 per cent reporting a related loss of income.
Previous research by the Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development carried out in the UK suggested 59 per cent of women experiencing menopause felt it had a negative impact on their work.
A number of high-profile employers in Ireland have announced the adoption of policies relating to menopause over the past year, including Bank of Ireland, Vodafone and An Garda Síochána.
The Unite research suggested, however, that many women workers continue to find it difficult to discuss in the workplace, particularly with male line managers.
Two-thirds of those who had taken time off had not reported the specific reason for their absence to their line manager while 60 per cent did not feel comfortable discussing menstrual health issues with their line manager or someone they managed or supported at work.
“I have never taken a day off due to the symptoms of menstruation but have really wanted or needed to,” said one, unnamed respondent, cited in the survey results. “I never felt that it would be taken seriously and feel uncomfortable to broach it with my manager (male). Instead, I find places to sit quietly and wait out bouts of severe pain/nausea/dizziness or work through, even while not functioning 100 per cent.”
The union says it has agreed policies with a number of the employers whose workers are its members and is campaigning for such policies to be statutory requirements.
“It is scandalous that women, who are already at an economic disadvantage, should be further burdened by the lack of proper workplace policies on the menopause and menstrual health,” said Susan Fitzgerald, the union’s Irish secretary.
“Robust workplace menstrual health policies are critical to ensuring real equality in the workplace. Employers must make reasonable accommodation, including paid time off where necessary, for workers experiencing menstruation and the menopause,” she said.