Bristol-based company Coexist is set to become the first UK business to introduce ‘period leave’, offering women suffering from menstrual cramps and pain the opportunity to take time off.
Intending to tap into the ‘natural rhythm’ of employees, company director Bex Baxter hopes that the optional leave will contribute to a happier and more productive work environment.
“There is a misconception that taking time off makes a business unproductive. Actually it is about synchronising work with the natural cycles of the body,” Baxter explains.
“For women, one of these is their menstrual cycles. Naturally, when women are having their periods they are in a winter state, when they need to regroup, keep warm and nourish their bodies.
“The spring section of the cycle, immediately after a period is a time when women are actually three times as productive as usual. So it is about balancing work-load in line with the natural cycles of the body.”
Though Coexist already lends an understanding ear to women suffering from menstrual pain - Baxter says she herself has needed time off due to painful cramps - until now there hasn't been any official guidelines.
As part of the upcoming seminar Pioneering Period Policy: Valuing Natural Cycles in the Workplace, being held this month at Bristol’s Hamilton House, Baxter’s team will all be involved in developing the company's new menstruation policy.
While she fully expects there to be much to discuss, including the feasibility of taking time off each month, along with issues surrounding equality, Baxter is confident that both the men and women in her team are supportive of the idea.
“We work on a triangle ethos of 'trust, love and play', so everyone at Coexist respects the company and gives more than 100 per cent to their work, so I don't think we will have an issue with people deceiving us,” she notes.
“Also, it is not mandatory, women do not have to take time off on their periods if they don't want to. I was talking to someone the other day and they said if it were men who had periods, then this policy would have been brought in sooner.
“We just want to celebrate and start talking about menstruation in a positive way, rather than the negativity which has shrouded the cycle.”
Alexandra Pope, who will lead the Pioneering Period Policy seminar, echoes Baxter’s sentiments.
“For centuries women have endured shame, ridicule and embarrassment and been deprived of education and positions of power because of the cycle.
“In the past any proposal to allow women to for example have time off at menstruation has been derided by men and women alike. In this context menstruation is seen as a liability or a problem. Or as women getting 'special treatment'.
“The purpose of this policy initiative is to create a positive approach to menstruation and the menstrual cycle that empowers women and men and supports the effectiveness and wellbeing of the organisation. To restore the menstrual cycle as the asset it is.”
Though a ground-breaking proposal in the UK, Coexist won’t be the first worldwide to introduce a menstruation policy. Businesses in Japan have implemented them as far back as 1947, while South Korea, Taiwan and some provinces in China also have laws in place to allow women to take time off during their period.
Nike also has menstrual leave written into its Code of Conduct policy, which is implemented throughout all international branches of the company.
“For too long there's been a taboo surrounding periods - I have women staff telling me they're ashamed to admit they're in pain,” concludes Baxter. “'I want us to break down that shame and replace the negativity with positivity.”