Shaan McNiece grew up thinking her crippling pain, fatigue and heavy bleeds were just a normal part of the menstrual process.
- Some Australian businesses are introducing menstrual and menopause leave, which gives employees additional days of paid personal leave
- The AMA says a menstrual leave policy could start to “normalise” menstruation and menopause and allow women to operate more effectively
- The Link Youth Health Service wants to see a change in Tasmanian workplaces
“I didn’t know this was a real issue, I just thought it was a bad period,” the Hobart woman said.
That was until four years ago, when the 25-year-old’s invisible illness took over every aspect of her life.
“I went from working nine hours a day, five days a week and going out on weekends, to running out of sick days,” she said.
“I worked in retail but I couldn’t stand on my feet very long … the fatigue was nearly as bad as the pain.”
She’s continuing to heal from a tough and ongoing battle with endometriosis — a condition that affects one in nine women in Australia.
Ms McNiece was also diagnosed with adenomyosis, which is a condition of the uterus, and required her to have a hysterectomy at 24 years of age.
Crowned Miss Burlesque Tasmania in 2019, Ms McNiece said performing was a great way for her to get back in touch with her body after she lost sight of who she was and her self-worth.
But after ongoing health battles and multiple surgeries, she has had to put her love of performing on stage on hold.
Instead, she has become an advocate for other young people who are going through a similar journey to her own.
She wants to see more support for people who have conditions such as endometriosis and pelvic floor dysfunction, and to remove the stigma associated with symptoms such as painful periods.
After ongoing health battles and multiple surgeries, Ms McNiece has had to put her love for performing on stage on hold. (
ABC News: Maren Preuss
Australian businesses introduce menstrual and menopause leave
Ms McNiece believes a good place to start is in the workplace, and she’s not alone.
More and more Australian businesses are introducing menstrual and menopause leave, which gives employees additional days of paid personal leave each year.
But in Tasmania, the Chamber of Commerce and Industry isn’t aware of any businesses in the state that have adopted the policy.
Doctor Annette Barratt says there is still a stigma surrounding periods.(
ABC News: Maren Preuss
Tasmania’s Australian Medical Association spokeswoman Annette Barratt said while it needed to be discussed more widely, a menstrual leave policy could start to “normalise” menstruation and menopause and allow women to operate more effectively.
“We still have a ridiculous barrier where women don’t want to tell their employer they can’t come into work because their periods are awful or because they suffer from endometriosis or menopause,” she said.
Women’s Health Tasmania CEO Jo Flanagan said a menstrual and menopause leave policy would send an important message to employees.
“We have a skills shortage and low female participation rates in the workplace, so this is a good way to attract women,” Ms Flanagan said.
Claire Johnston from the Link Youth Health Service is also keen to see a change in Tasmanian workplaces.
Ms Johnston has helped dozens of young people with their sexual and reproductive health.
She said: “Anything that can normalise what is a very normal part of human life like menstruation is fantastic.”
‘It’s OK to advocate for yourself’
Businesses on the mainland that have introduced a menstrual and menopause leave policy are already seeing a positive change in the workplace.
Modibodi CEO Kristy Chong said: “They’ve had overwhelming support, and several team members have utilised the additional leave days since its introduction in May this year”.
“We introduced this policy as part of our commitment to remove any stigma and shame associated with a normal, natural part or unexpected part of life.”
While Ms McNiece wishes this policy had been in place when she was employed as a retail worker, she is pleased Tasmanians are having discussions about menstruation.
Claire Johnston, Lucinda Shannon and Jo Flanagan are keen to see menstrual and menopause leave introduced in Tasmanian workplaces. (
ABC News: Maren Preuss
She wants the conversation to start earlier so other young people who suffer from severe period pain don’t have to suffer in silence.
“If someone had said to me this isn’t normal as a 14-year-old, I would have been totally different,” she said.
Despite her challenges, she believes the journey has made her stronger as a person and she is looking forward to helping others through her lived experience.
“You are a specialist of your body. It’s OK to get a second opinion and to advocate for yourself,” she said.