Woman reprimanded by HR for mentioning her period at work

17 Jul




HR professionals have voiced their outrage on Twitter after a Mumsnet user described being reprimanded by her HR director for mentioning her period at work.

The woman, who said she was “furious” at being called out for “menstruating at work”, described how she had been using a hot water bottle to ease menstrual cramps at her desk, when her supervisor asked what she was doing. Upon explaining the hot water bottle was for pain relief, she said her supervisor, who she referred to as ‘Guy’, looked “confused, then literally horrified”.

Shortly afterwards, the woman was taken aside by the organisation’s HR director, who told her she was being “unprofessional” and she “shouldn’t disclose [her] medical problems to anyone who isn’t part of HR as it can make them uncomfortable”. According to the woman, the HR director added: “If you’re so unwell you need a hot water bottle, you should be at home. Guy is extremely uncomfortable and it’s unprofessional.”

The Mumsnet user said she was “flabbergasted” by her HR director’s response, “especially considering that ‘Guy’ has been known to take meetings with clients while lying flat on the floor because of back problems – which seems to me both unprofessional and likely to make people uncomfortable”, she wrote. “I wouldn’t have had my hot water bottle in a client meeting, or even if clients were in the office.”

The post has been making the rounds on Twitter, with many people taking to social media to slate both ‘Guy’ for reporting his colleague and HR for managing the situation badly.

In an ongoing poll of People Management Twitter followers, 95 per cent said the HR director should not have reprimanded the employee for her behaviour. Just 3 per cent thought the response was appropriate.   


The management of menstruation at work has been in the spotlight lately, with the Italian parliament reported to be considering a proposal to legally allow female employees to take three days of paid menstrual leave each month. Last year, a Bristol-based community interest company became one of the first UK organisations to launch a formal period leave policy for their female employees, in the hope it would make them more productive and improve wellbeing. Menstrual leave has been a legal right for Japanese women since 1947.

But experts remain divided on the subject, with some employment lawyers suggesting it could lead to greater workplace inequality, because companies could be encouraged to hire more men if women are entitled to extra paid leave.

“There are potential benefits to enhanced menstrual leave entitlements, such as creating expectations that women are able to take leave for menstrual pains. This may help tackle the stigma around talking about such matters and people not understanding them that easily,” said Joanna Powis, employment lawyer at Reed Smith.

“On the other hand, there could be a negative impact because this would be another type of leave that women can take, but men can’t. In the last couple of years the law has been making efforts to create greater equality between men and women in terms of the leave they can take (for example, shared parental leave), so the danger is that existing problems around workplace inequality could be exacerbated.”

Emily Blunt People Management