2 mins


Beauty therapist and business owner Abi Oleck talks to Ellen Cummings about her mission to raise awareness of women’s health issues

How have your health issues affected your career?

“I’ve been in the business for 20 years, and I’m a Cibtac level 4-trained therapist. I suffered from fibroids for many years, and they grew to the size of grapefruits and extended my abdomen to 42 inches. I had to take the heart-breaking decision to have a partial hysterectomy. At the worst time of my bleeding, I was haemorrhaging continuously for four and a half months and I was housebound.

“Obviously when you’re in that situation, you can’t work. I would say that I lost at least 25% of my wages every month, and every self-employed person knows that the 25% is what’s left over for yourself after you’ve covered bills and other outgoings.

“I was told to go on Universal Credit, so I basically had to run my life on just over £300 a month when I’d usually charge a minimum of £345 for an hour-long facial. If you don’t have the support of family or a partner, then what? Women are going to lose their businesses and their homes.

“It really affected my mental health, and it wasn’t only because of the worry about losing income, it was also the rollercoaster of pain every month.”

What can therapists do to help women who are suffering from these kinds of health issues?

“Many of these women may be on prescription medication but there are things beauty therapists can do to make people more comfortable. It’s not going to be everyone’s cup of tea, but I found CBD oil really helpful. Massage really helps because it releases endorphins, although it shouldn’t be done in areas of concern like the abdomen.

“I personally also found meditation to be very beneficial, and therapists should encourage clients to keep themselves healthy and choose the right supplements to feed the body.”

Why did you start a petition via for paid menstrual leave?

“I set up the petition because I saw online that the Spanish government was debating a menstrual bill. They were saying that no woman should have to suffer in the workplace and that they should have the right to paid leave for three to five days a month if they have bad periods, endometriosis, fibroids – things that really affect women.

“The petition for a UK menstrual bill is to encourage conversation. I’m not trying to create Abi’s Law, I’m not dictating what the menstrual bill should be. I’m asking people to talk about it and do their research.

“We could use the Spanish menstrual bill as a template, and then improve on it – make it what the British people want. A public consultation would be great; we’ve all got to team up and help each other if we want to effect change.”

Could paid menstrual leave be taken advantage of?

“I’ve never met anybody in our industry who would rather be at home on benefits instead of doing a job they love. That goes across the board with every woman I’ve ever met. People can slip through the net, like they can in every benefit that’s granted. So of course, there has to be a degree of medical reference but that’s for the Government to work out. That’s what we’re paying them for.”

This article appears in December 2022

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This article appears in...
December 2022
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