New research shows that many women still feel uncomfortable openly discussing menstruation in the workplace with around a quarter lying in order to take time off due to PMS symptoms. 

New data by Yoppie, a period care products company, has shown that almost a quarter of women (23 per cent) felt the need to lie when taking time off for PMS symptoms.

Premenstrual syndrome, or PMS, describes the array of symptoms women can face before menstruating including abdominal cramps, headaches, fatigue and irritability. The NHS stated that most women do experience these symptoms prior to their period.

Despite this common occurrence, over a quarter of women (26 per cent) were concerned that their period pains or PMS symptoms will not be considered a legitimate illness and therefore not a good enough reason to miss work.

Almost a fifth (18 per cent) reported feeling self-conscious due to the subject itself whilst 13 per cent felt uncomfortable even discussing feminine issues with their colleagues in general.

In particular, judgement from male colleagues specifically (12 per cent) was attributed as a key reason for not telling the truth about PMS symptoms when taking time off work to recover.

Others were shown to be concerned about comparison (12 per cent), fearing that they would seem inadequate compared to other female colleagues who do not take time off due to PMS.

A small minority (7 per cent) reported that their workplace had poor facilities including no sanitary bins or toilet access.

However, previous research by menstrual equity charity Bloody Good Period found that almost two-thirds of respondents (63 per cent) wished that employers would normalise conversations about menstruation in the workplace.

A further six in 10 (59 per cent) wanted employers to provide more information about menstruation to all employees which would help to overcome ignorance linked to the topic and showcase that each person’s experience is different.

Daniella Peri, Founder of Yoppie, commented:

Although periods are not the taboo topic that they used to be, it is clear that many women still don’t feel they can be open and honest about the severity of their PMS symptoms in the workplace.

PMS is a very personal subject but this doesn’t mean we should live in fear of being judged for taking time off. In fact, stress can be an influential factor in exacerbating PMS symptoms and so having to worry about covering it up could inadvertently make it worse.

Gabby Edlin, founder of Bloody Good Period and CEO, said:

More than ever, we have an opportunity to actively reshape our worlds and workplaces. There’s also a business case for doing this: we believe that supporting people when they have their periods can have significant mental health benefits, boosting satisfaction levels, happiness at work, productivity and loyalty. Looking after staff in a way that reflects their whole selves is the right thing to do.

*Yoppie surveyed 2,403 UK women aged 19-54 on the 6th May 2021 to obtain these results.





Monica Sharma is an English Literature graduate from the University of Warwick. As Editor for HRreview, her particular interests in HR include issues concerning diversity, employment law and wellbeing in the workplace. Alongside this, she has written for student publications in both England and Canada. Monica has also presented her academic work concerning the relationship between legal systems, sexual harassment and racism at a university conference at the University of Western Ontario, Canada.