More than half the survey respondents believe that calling in sick due to period pain is socially unacceptable (52 per cent), while 47 per cent fear that their employers will not accept period pain as a valid reason. Furthermore, one third of menstruators are convinced that it is not a legitimate reason for calling in sick. As Georgia Grace, sex coach and sexual health expert for Womanizer, explains, there is a need for women to be able to at least have the option to take leave, or rest when they need it. “Many experience debilitating pain and discomfort, and feel they have to push through it,” she said.
One thing that does become clear from the results is that menstrual leave is necessary. Australia has since become a world-leader when it comes to employer awareness of menstruation, with several companies introducing paid menstruation leave. While they might offer such a thing though, attitudes towards period leave need to change to see women become comfortable taking up the offer.
The reality of menstrual leave in the workplace
As the study suggests, 97 per cent of respondents claimed menstrual leave has never been discussed, let alone addressed, by their employer. Not surprisingly, 86 per cent of these employers do not offer menstrual leave. Asked how they would feel about being offered extra days off for menstrual leave, an overwhelming eight in 10 menstruators believe they would be more productive if they could rest during the day when the pain is at its worst. Almost as many also agree that menstrual leave would be a good signal from companies to create a safe workplace. 72 per cent believe this measure is both appropriate and fair.
Still, women were quick to voice their concerns about menstrual leave. Despite believing it necessary, they suggest that it could lead to more reservations about employing women because they may miss more days of work than non-menstruators.
So, how can Aussie employers approach menstrual leave?
According to Kris Grant, CEO at HR consultancy ASPL Group, companies and their HR departments should have an honest conversation with their employees about their needs. “There needs to be some consultation first and consideration of what will actually help your organisation,” she says. “It might be an allocated amount of days for menstrual leave per year or more flexible working hours to accommodate times of pain, or no special treatment at all. The only way menstrual leave, menopause leave and other policies can work most beneficially is by making sure it’s what employees want and need.”
Grant also stresses that menstrual leave should not be thought of as special treatment. “It’s simply destigmatising menstruation and showing compassion to common issues women face,” she explains.
Similarly, Grant urges caution to organisations introducing menstruation leave and other policies, acknowledging that, “If an employee takes sick leave, they don’t need to tell their employer what it’s for. When you create specific leave types, it forces an employee to put up their hand and say, ‘I’m on my period today. I can’t work.’ They might not be comfortable doing that, so being wary of employee privacy is a huge consideration.”
What can you do about period pain?
In the Menstrubation Study, Womanizer discovered that regular masturbation can help against period pain and have short- as well as long-term pain-relieving effects. In a study conducted between June and September of 2020, participants based around the world were asked to masturbate during their period and complete a survey that monitors their pain. The results found that the average pain intensity of their period was reduced from 6.7 on a zero to ten scale, to as low as 5.4. masturbation had an almost immediate effect on the intensity of period pains, showing a continuous decrease over the course of the testing months.
As Georgia Grace explains, “A key takeaway for me is that this study proves orgasms and pleasure are important to your overall health and wellbeing, especially for those who experience pain. Masturbation is good for you!”
She adds, “The study is a welcome reminder that you don’t have to let your period put a halt to your pleasure. Sex can be just as enjoyable, or even better, during your period days as it is the rest of the month.”
Ultimately, “studies like this are vital for sexual liberation and freedom from chronic pain.” As Grace adds, “It’s important that all practitioners working in the space of therapy, health and/or sexual wellness are aware of these results.”