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We can’t keep ignoring menstrual health in the workplace

Employers need to start taking some responsibility for their employees’ menstrual health—and they can start by simply talking about it

Photo by Josefin /Unsplash

Every month, half of the population experiences a thing called menstruation. It’s a painful and inconvenient natural process that’s made even more painful and inconvenient by the way society talks about it. Which is to say that we hardly speak of it; and in the rare moments we do, it’s done with hesitation and shame. 

Conversations dictate the fate of most crucial issues, which is why it’s absolutely important that things like menstrual health are talked about in the workplace. Why the workplace? Because that’s where many of us spend most of our time. In the food and beverage industry, employees work up to 12 hours a day. Menstruation in itself is an uncomfortable ordeal. Imagine what it’s like to work in the stressful working conditions of restaurants and kitchens on your period. Restaurateurs need to start investing in their employees’ health—with a focus on women’s health, including menstrual care. 

Restaurant owners should consider implementing paid period leave policies and shorter working hours as well as providing better access to sanitary products. 

First thing’s first: It’s necessary to first break menstrual taboo. Lack of conversation, and the stigma surrounding menstruation, has stifled the way we address periods. 

This is how serious the problem is: In many parts of Japan, women aren’t allowed to be sushi chefs because it’s believed that menstruation renders their taste “imbalanced.” In some European countries, people believe that if a woman tries to make mayonnaise during her period, it will curdle. In India, it’s believed that pickled food prepared by women on their periods are more likely to rot. As absurd as they sound, these notions provide a glimpse of how badly foodservice employers need to address menstrual health in a science-based, judgment-free way.

The restaurant industry needs to catch up soon. Start-ups, menstrual care activists, and a number of companies have taken action—our mother company Hinge being one of them.

As a progressive feminist company, Hinge gave menstrual cups to all employees on International Women’s Day as they believe that menstrual care is an integral part of women’s healthcare. The company chose Sinaya cups (reusable waterproof alternatives to disposable napkins and tampons) as they are aligned with its advocacies—namely feminism, sustainability, and supporting local businesses.

Employers in the foodservice industry can benefit from following suit and taking responsibility for their employees’ healthcare. After all, good service can only be ensured if foodservice employees are in good health. So, our message to restaurateurs: Don’t be afraid to have conversations about menstrual health.

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