A man reported his coworker to HR for talking about her period in the workplace

OH come on

period in the office
(Image credit: Moviestore/REX/Shutterstock)

OH come on

And now in breaking news, a man reported his coworker to HR for explaining that her hot water bottle was for her menstrual cramps. Time waits for no woman and the red sea - and it certainly doesn’t wait for anybody’s weird hang ups about the female body.

A user named Snuffalo on Mumsnet asked her fellow mums for advice about how she should react to the situation, detailing it in full on the forum. The thread, which is now over 500 messages long, was later shared in screencaps on Twitter where it unsurprisingly went viral.

The user explained that she suffered from extremely painful cramps and painkillers like naproxen didn’t cut it, so she resorted to the time old tradition of busting out a hot water bottle. Her beady-eyed male superior - who she nicknamed Guy for the purpose of the thread - spotted her and that’s where the troubles began brewing.

She said, ‘My sort-of-supervisor* we’ll call Guy comes over to talk to me about something, notices the hot water bottle, says 'there’s no way you’re cold today, are you?' I say 'um, no, just for the pain relief'. He looks confused and then literally horrified and then he walks away.’

‘Less than ten minutes later, I get a Slack message from one of the HR admins (HR is based in another office a few hours away) to say 'Guy says you’re not well and should go home, everything OK?' I say 'I’m fine, this is sort of weird, he just looked a bit shocked that I had a hot water bottle, I’ve got cramps, you know how it is.”’

Things escalated very quickly after that. She continued, ‘[The HR admin] goes silent and then offline completely, ten more minutes later, the HR Director calls me and asks me if I can find a meeting room, which I do. She then tells me that I shouldn’t disclose my medical problems to anyone who isn’t part of HR as it can make them uncomfortable.’

‘I’m literally shocked, I explain exactly what happened, she says 'yes I understand, if you’re so unwell you need a hot water bottle you should be home, Guy is extremely uncomfortable and it’s unprofessional'. I say 'this is weird, ok, anything else”? She’s quite breezy and professional - “No, that’s all, if you’re feeling better that’s great but if you need to, please do go home, OK bye!"’

See more

Now, I’m lucky enough to have worked in predominantly female offices where everyone understands that being on your period is just a natural part of life and nothing to be ashamed of. (Annoyed about, yes, but never ashamed of.) While I’m not exactly going to go around announcing that I’m riding the red sea, I’ve never felt embarrassed about asking to borrow a pad from somebody or busting out a hot water bottle when I really need it. When I hear stories like this, it really throws me off.

First of all, it’s not like Snuffalo was detailing the grim ins and outs of having a period. If anything, her story shows that she made an effort to be discreet about it - she only revealed she was on her time of the month when Guy asked her about the water bottle and she never explicitly said anything about it. It’s not like she was parading around the office, swinging a bloody tampon around like a whistle. (That, I could understand being reported to HR).

Second of all, what’s up with you, Guy? In all of your years of life, have you never been close enough to a woman to realise that periods are a thing that happen to us all the time? In fact, recent research revealed that ladies spend the equivalent of ten years of their life menstruating. Some women suffer from really truly debilitating cramps and for some reason, it’s become taboo to talk about the pain or take leave because of it. Forget keeping calm and carrying on - I bet if Guy felt like his intestines were wringing themselves out like laundry, he would be up and out of there in a second. I’m all for taking a leaf out of Italy’s book, where paid menstrual leave could soon become a reality.

The most outrageous thing about Snuafflo’s post is that she revealed that ‘Guy has been known to take meetings with clients whilst laying flat on the floor on his back because of back problems - which seems to me both unprofessional and likely to make people uncomfortable, not that I really cared personally’. The man is starfishing during a client meeting and he’s complaining about her pressing a hot water bottle to her stomach?

It seems like I’m not the only one who find this ridiculous, as Twitter has exploded in the wake of her experience. Another user on Mumsnet called KoalaDownUnder aptly said, ‘Guy needs to grow the fuck up. What did I actually just read?’

Snuffalo ended her post by asking the forum, ‘Other people have standing desks, weird foot rests, all kinds of chairs and special backrests for their back pain and wrist braces for their wrist pain and a hundred other things and I’m not allowed to have a hot water bottle for my menstrual cramps? Am I right to be completely fucking furious?’

Yes, Snuffalo. Yes, you are.

Megan C. Hills

Megan is a freelance journalist who covers entertainment and all things lifestyle, with a particular passion for fashion, beauty, travel and Keanu Reeves stories. She has previously worked on staff for titles including Marie Claire UK, CNN Style and The Evening Standard and has written for titles such as Bustle UK, Wallpaper*, Forbes and Hong Kong Tatler. She splits her time between London and her hometown Hong Kong, where she currently lives with the love of her life - an elderly dog named Poppy - and her husband.