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Trade unions call for implementation of mandatory workplace menstrual and menopausal policies

The newly formed trade union coalition ‘Stop the Stigma’ launched its position paper in Leinster House yesterday.

TRADE UNIONS ARE calling 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 yesterday, which includes research and a draft policy of recommended workplace policies in relation to menstruation and menopause.

The position paper 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 trade union group said.

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.

“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,” Irish Congress of Trade Unions vice-president Phil Ní Sheaghdha said. 

“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,” Ní Sheaghdha said. 

“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,” she said. 

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

Civil service

The policy paper comes after the Government last week launched its new Menopause in the Workplace policy framework for the civil service, which seeks to provide more flexibility and supports for women.

Speaking about the new menopause workplace policy, Minister Paschal Donohoe said it will help over 26,000 women who are employed in the civil service, accounting for over 50% of the workforce.

The minister said he fundamentally recognises that the health journey for women is different to men with different costs and challenges involved. 

The framework sets out that by the second quarter of next year, public bodies should have a policy developed which outlines workplace adjustments that might be offered to women with menopause symptoms, supports employers can put in place as well as the role of managers and human resources. 

“By recognising the impact that menopause can have, and creating an open culture of discussion and understanding around menopause, we can ensure those women feel comfortable in the workplace and can progress in their careers in the civil service,” he added. 

However, the minister told The Journal that while this is a policy framework for the public service, it should be seen as a signal to all large employers that they need to put a similar policy in place. 

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). 

With reporting by Christina Finn

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