Stop the Stigma

30th October 2023

Posted In: FYI

Ireland’s largest trade unions have called for employers and the Government to implement mandatory workplace menstrual and menopausal policies.

The newly formed trade union coalition, ‘Stop the Stigma’ launched its position paper in Leinster House recently, which includes extensive research and a draft policy of recommended workplace policies in relation to menstruation and menopause.

The trade union group said the position paper also outlines the need to protect workers’ rights in this context under the Safety, Health, and Welfare at Work Act and the Employment Equality Acts 1998-2015. The Coalition said the introduction of appropriate supports would also have a significant impact on sick leave absence rates in Ireland’s workplaces, benefiting hundreds of thousands of workers.

The ’Stop the Stigma’ coalition is made up of Fórsa Trade Union, the Financial Services Union (FSU), the Communication Workers Union (CWU), the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO), The Irish National Teachers Organisation (INTO), the Services, Industrial, Professional, and Technical Union (SIPTU), UNITE the union, Energy Services Union (ESU) and backed by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU).

The new campaign is advocating for improved workplace supports concerning menstruation and menopause to eliminate unnecessary stress from the workplace and people’s working lives.

ICTU Vice-President, and General Secretary of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation, Phil Ní Sheaghdha said: “With more and more women participating in the workforce, having workable menopause and menstrual policies that protect women at work has never been more urgent.

There is a huge need for education and awareness training for all staff in our workplaces, and across society. The silence around women’s health issues is damaging, and it impacts equality in society and at work.

“This is very serious. The potential for women’s careers to be negatively impacted particularly by menopause needs to be eliminated, and education and awareness training are key to reducing stigma and facilitating the vital conversations women need to have at work.

“Development of workplace policies is an employer’s responsibility for fostering equality and is vital for retaining skilled staff in their professions.“

Research and collective bargaining activity has also revealed a dire need for implementation and protection of workplace menstruation and menopause policies.

The coalition said that the unions’ research has revealed:

1. Menopause and menstruation have a negative impact on the working lives of people who menstruate

2. These health concerns are treated as jokes in several workplaces

3. Several workplaces are ill-equipped to deal with these health concerns

4. A majority of respondents are in favour of implementing a workplace policy that offers a range of supports to help people stay in employment comfortably.

The ‘Stop the Stigma coalition’s position paper says that excluding, or neglecting, to address the specific needs of individuals experiencing menopause and menstruation perpetuates gender-based discrimination, and further creates an inequitable work environment. The Employment Equality Acts of 1998-2015 mandate employer responsibility to implement protective policies for all employees.

A spokesperson for the Stop the Stigma Coalition said: “These supports and policies should not be the exception in any modern workplace, they should constitute standard practice. We are calling for modern workplace policies that reflect a modern workforce.

“We believe this is an essential requirement for workplace equality and safety, and a vital step to ensure dignity in the workplace. This really is a low-cost opportunity for employers as they compete to recruit and retain talent in a challenging labour market.”

The group also welcomed Minister Roderic O’Gorman’s announcement of research and guidance for employers and employees on menstruation and menopause in the workplace that is set to be launched early next year.