period policy

It seems like the work market is finally considering what women needs. Have you heard about the ‘period policy’?

A company from Bristol has created this period policy to make the work environment more understanding towards female workers. That company is called Coexist, and manages a space for artists, community organisations and activists. Their team of 31 workers includes 24 women. 

And why is that? Well, let’s face it: periods are painful. Yes, not for all women – some lucky ones don’t feel it much-, but, for most of us, having our period makes a difference in our daily life. The firm Coexist and her director, Bex Baxter, have been taking this into account for a long time, and have now decided to finally set some guidelines and turn it into a policy, the first one to consider something as important for a woman as the menstrual cycle.

The period policy: A step forward

The workplace has traditionally been dominated by males, as any other area in the world. Women have been jumping into the modern work market for decades, but there are still lots to be done.

There is something else that needs to be taken into account, and that is a key concept in our capitalist society: productivity. We tend to measure the value of our time in productivity, and think about unproductive time as lost time, and thus, without benefits. Of course, this world based on productivity has also been created in a male-dominated atmosphere, which makes that nowadays, what doesn’t fit in the so-called ‘productive activities’ doesn’t fit into the interests of many companies. A dangerous conception that contributes even more to limit women’s access to the job market. Still today, women in fertile ages have to face more difficulties when trying to find a job or receiving promotions.

However, there are many studies conducted that show that time off is actually good for productivity, as is being happy and satisfied in the workplace and feeling valued and understood. Baxter has something to say about this as well: 

Many companies are male-dominated and encourage long hours but 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 thinks that allowing the female workers in their company to plan their schedule around their bodies’ cycle will improve productivity – and, as a woman with a menstrual cycle yourself, you can probably see her point! However, this will unfortunately be seen by many as an attack towards productivity itself, as well as just a perk that women can enjoy – which, as Baxter explains, is really not the point.

Every day, women have to face strong inequalities in the work market, and even though we’ve come a long way in the last decades thanks to brave, remarkable women that have fought for our rights, there is still a long way to go. Statistics show that even in the most developed countries, women are paid less than men in the same positions. According to statistics from the Eurostat that you can check here, in year 2010, women were paid 16,1% less than men per hour on average.  Women have less access to positions of responsibility or power in any field – politics, business, and so on. Even in artistic fields, women are relegated to the background. Just take a look at the percentages of films directed by women, of books published by women. There is still a long, long way ahead of us.

And Bex Baxter is trying to walk another step with Coexist’s period policy, by setting an important example that, hopefully, will be regarded as a precedent someday. Let’s go back to productivity. The issue with a period leave is that it will translate into time off work – a big ‘no’ for many companies that still regard productivity as something that needs to be encouraged by increasing working time. But that is, yet again, another misconception.

I have managed many female members of staff over the years and I have seen women at work who are bent over double because of the pain caused by their periods. Despite this, they feel they cannot go home because they do not class themselves as unwell.

And this is unfair. At Coexist we are very understanding. If someone is in pain – no matter what kind – they are encouraged to go home. But, for us, we wanted a policy in place which recognises and allows women to take time for their body’s natural cycle without putting this under the label of illness.”

What Baxter intends is for this time off to be considered as a way of adjusting work to how a woman’s body works, and not to establish period as a sickness. The period policy is a way of allowing the employees of coexist to take time off when their bodies is asking them to do so, with the knowledge that this will reflect positively later on in their cycle, when they are at their best. And any working women who has had a horrible day cramping in the office will see how much sense this makes.

 

The Period Policy 

This new period policy runs along working policies that are more modern, understanding and focused on the individual, and walks another step away from the old, tight conception that more time equals more productivity. According to Baxter: 

It’s not just about taking time off if you feel unwell but about empowering people to be their optimum selves. If you work with your natural rhythms, your creativity and intelligence is more fulfilled. And that’s got to be good for business. 

Coexists’ Period Policy will be based on choice, which means the women will be able to use the period policy if they decide to do so. The days off will not be mandatory if they don’t feel sick and believe they can work normally.

It’s important that this new period policy isn’t regarded as a perk. It’s a step forward not only to improve women’s situation in the work market but also to start talking more and more about our period, which has always been and still is a taboo. If you think about it, there are many conditions specific to women that are not discussed in public, such as postnatal depression, and should be: first of all, to increase awareness about them, and second, because they will only be a taboo if we keep them on the shadows. As Baxter puts it:

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.

So what do you think about the period policy? Do you think other companies will follow Coexist’s example?