The Mancunion

Britain's biggest student newspaper

Suffer from menstrual problems? Sorry love, no jobs here

The National University of Ireland Galway is branded “misogynistic” for invasive personal health questions asked on a form for successful job candidates


Universities are expected to be beacons of fairness, equality, and inclusivity, but the National University of Ireland in Galway (NUIG) has come under considerable fire following complaints from prospective employees over “invasive” and “misogynistic” questions on its occupational health form.

This academic institution, whose history dates back to 1845, describes itself as having “a distinguished reputation for teaching and research excellence,” but this reputation has been tarnished of late, following fresh claims of sexism and lack of gender equality in the university.

The university claims that the 40 questions, including: “Do you suffer with any problems with your menstrual periods?” and “Do you suffer any breast problems?”, help occupational health professionals to establish whether the successful candidate will be in a position to “carry out the job without any undue risk to the health and safety of themselves or others at work.”

A statement from NUIG said: “The form is completely confidential and returned by the individual to the university Occupational Health Physician directly… A confirmation is simply received of medical fitness for duty or not.”

One senior lecturer at NUIG, however, has branded the questions “borderline misogynistic. They are such an invasion of privacy it is unbelievable. Why are the menstrual periods of women workers of concern to NUI Galway? If you answer ‘yes’ to this question, what are the consequences?”

This criticism has prompted NUIG to respond to calls of sexism in the workplace; The Connacht Tribune reported that issues of gender equality have been unavoidable at NUIG in recent months, following Equality Tribunal findings on discrimination against two female lecturers at the university. Moreover, in recent figures, it was revealed that 81 per cent of the university’s staff was male.

NUIG alumnus and Sinn Féin Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh has spoken out against the university, saying that he is “very concerned” over the problems raised by the questionnaire. “It appears excessively intrusive, and it gives rise to gender balance issues, bias, and discrimination.

“Whether or not they have underlying health issues could be ascertained without going into so much detail about whether somebody has any problems with their menstrual periods, their menstrual cycles or whether they’ve had any prostate issues. I can’t understand why you’d ask so specific questions of people and I think it is totally outrageous.”

The university, which has handed out honorary doctorates to the likes of Hillary Clinton and Angelica Huston, announced that they would be reviewing the process in light of the recent backlash. Many current and past students and staff have expressed concern over Twitter at the actions of the institution using the hashtag #answerstoNUIG.

One current student, @GraceyOConnell, said: “Cause a menstrual cycle impacts on how she does her job [sic]? I won’t be looking for a job here after my degree anyway”.