Unions call for menstrual and menopause supports

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 campaign, ‘Stop the Stigma’ launched its position paper in Leinster House this week. The paper includes extensive research and contains a suite of draft workplace policies in relation to menstruation and menopause.

The trade union group, of which the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation (INTO) is a member, 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 believe the introduction of appropriate supports would also have a significant impact on sick leave rates in Ireland’s workplaces, benefiting hundreds of thousands of workers and their workplaces.

Irish Congress of Trade Unions Vice President Phil Ni Sheaghdha said:

A changing labour force, with more women between the ages of 15 and 64 participating than ever before in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, demands updated protections and policies in the workplace.

As trade unions, we have a duty to speak up on these issues to give a voice to our members. We are calling for long-overdue measures to support workers and to stop the stigma surrounding menstruation and the menopause. We believe this is an essential response to the demands experienced by workers, and an important step towards equality and dignity in the workplace.

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

This research has revealed:

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

2. These health concerns are not taken seriously in many 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.

Stop the Stigma’s position paper sets out 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.

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 the menopause to eliminate unnecessary stresses from the workplace and people’s working lives.