1 in 2 women in S’pore lie about reason for calling in sick when suffering from period pain: Survey

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54 per cent of the respondents said that they have lied about their reason for absence – dealing with period pain – to avoid ridicule or discrimination at the workplace, said Blood, a local period-care brand.

In 2021, they commissioned a survey with 1,000 female respondents in Singapore, aged between 18 to 55, to better understand the impact that menstruation has on women in the workplace today.

This is part of Blood’s “Period-Positive Workplaces” initiative to encourage companies to create better workplaces that support women.

Here are some key highlights of the survey:

Women tend to hide period discomfort at work

The majority of those surveyed (83 per cent) revealed that period pain affects their lives regularly, said Blood.

An overwhelming 94 per cent typically suffered from one or more symptoms like cramps, fatigue, bloating and backache each month.

Close to one in four (37 per cent) respondents shared that they suffer from extreme period discomfort, so severe that it derails their daily lives for a few days every month.

Despite all this, 31 per cent of the respondents said that they’d prefer to “suffer in silence”. The same proportion of women has resigned to the fact that “a painful menstrual cycle is just part of being a woman”.

71 per cent of them admitted they feel pressured to be at their desk even if they are not feeling well.

Many (68 per cent) also said they would continue to work despite being “bent over in pain”, fearing that they would be judged or overlooked.

Choosing to lie instead

According to their survey, 44 per cent of respondents “regularly” take time off work to deal with period pains or to avoid awkwardness in the office when they are having their period.

However, 43 per cent of respondents have chosen to lie about the reason for calling in sick because they think that they wouldn’t be believed if they cited period pains.

The press release by Blood highlighted that respondents are open to employers implementing period policies, ranging from flexible working hours (to avoid losing a full work-day) to recognising “period leave” as a valid medical need.

The co-founder of Blood, Tan Peck Ying, also said that over 70 per cent of the respondents surveyed highlighted that they would rather have the flexibility to choose where and how to work on period days instead of “taking an MC unnecessarily”.

Some face workplace shame

A majority of respondents (62 per cent) learnt about their periods from their mothers. However, over a third of respondents (37 per cent) first learnt about their periods either at school, from their friends or the internet.

This indicates the lack of knowledge about the menstrual cycle, Blood said, which has likely helped render the subject matter “taboo” both in the workplace and at home.

76 per cent of the respondents, for instance, revealed that they go to great lengths to hide their sanitary products at work.

Three in four women also said they had experienced some form of period shaming in the workplace, either in the form of bullying, being isolated or facing “time of the month” jokes.

One-third of the respondents felt that empathy from colleagues was lacking during “tough periods”.

The survey also highlighted that female bosses faired only “slightly better” as compared to their male counterparts when it came to understanding the challenges of period pain:

“The findings suggest that male bosses are stepping up when it comes to understanding the challenges of the monthly cycle but overall, there is still room for improvement.”

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Top image courtesy Sora Shimazaki/Pexels and Ministry of Manpower/FB.