Member log in

Research backs Thompson's period comments

UPDATE 11.30am: Under-fire EMA boss Alasdair Thompson’s comments about female absenteeism due to menstrual cycles may have been right, according to a recent research paper.

A National Bureau of Economic Research working paper, Biological Gender Differences, Absenteeism and the Earning Gap, found higher absenteeism due to the menstrual cycle accounted for nearly 12% of the gender pay gap.

The paper, written by Andrea Ichino and Enrico Moretti, was published in the American Economic Journal: Applied Economics in 2009.

It said, “In most Western countries illness-related absenteeism is higher among female workers than among male workers.

“Using the personnel dataset of a large Italian bank, we show that the probability of an absence due to illness increases for females, relative to males, approximately 28 days after a previous illness.

“This difference disappears for workers age 45 or older. We interpret this as evidence that the menstrual cycle raises female absenteeism.

“Absences with a 28-day cycle explain a significant fraction of the male-female absenteeism gap.”

To investigate the effect of absenteeism on earnings, they used a model in which employers couldn’t directly observe workers' productivity, and therefore used observable characteristics – including absenteeism – to set wages.

The researchers said men are absent from work because of “health and shirking reasons” while women face an “additional exogenous source of health shocks due to menstruation.”

They calculated the earnings cost for women associated with menstruation.

“We find that higher absenteeism induced by the 28-day cycle explains 11.8% of the earnings gender differential.” 


6am: Employers and Manufacturers Association (EMA) head Alasdair Thompson does not intend to resign after an uproar over his comment that women got paid less because they took sick days when they had their period.

"Brain explosion"
The Green Party and the Council of Trade Unions called for Mr Thompson to stand down, while National's Kate Wilkinson - Minister of Labour - said the EMA boss had appeared to have suffered a "brain explosion".

Employment and Social Development Minister Paula Bennett said Mr Thompson's comments were "archaic", adding, "He sounded a bit like a dinosaur to me."

Mr Thompson said he was sorry for causing offence but stood by his overall argument.

Stats gap
On Campbell Live last night, Mr Thompson said he could not offer any specific information to back his claim, but knew it was true from women from his own experience and that of the employers he represents.

"I know it's an awful thiing to say but it's true," the EMA boss said, of his claim that women take more leave and are less productive because "once a month they have sick problems"

National's Ms Wilkinson begged to differ. The minster told parliament's transport and industrial relations select committee that "If that was the case there would be many of us entitled to about 12 years' sick pay ... It's outrageous."

"Walk out"
Mr Thompson compounded his problems with an awkward interview on Campbell Live last night.

Taking issue with the reporter Mihingarangi Forbes approach, Mr Thompson stood up and walked to the door of his office, seemingly set to walk out on the interview.

But he changed his his mind, and after pacing around his office got into a stand-up argument with Ms Forbes.

The EMA boss said he thought the camera had stopped rolling (see an extended version of the interview on TV3's website here; a transcript of Mr Thompson's original comments is in NBR's story from yesterday here).

Comments and questions

What a disgraceful performance on National TV. You would think the idiot would have facts to back up his statements...he certainly had the time....but no. Called 'cut' when it got just a little close to the bone. AT you are a dickhead

There are facts to back up his statements
But would you listen to them if they were presented I wonder ?

Men and women are different, that is a fact.
And there are many other facts regarding the difference if you are interested. But I doubt that you will bother to find out what they are.

Prove it then bud. He made a statement that in general, women were less productive than men, yet could not back it up with any stats. He had the time and failed. What am I ignoring? I haven't said anything about whether men and women are different. From the birds and bees discussions I had with my parents many years ago, I think that is without doubt. Clown.

The sight of him on tv looking directly at the camera made me want to take a shower.

maybe alastair has hit male menopause?

maybe alastair has hit male menopause?

I guess female employers have less productive businesses too then. On TV3 tonight he was just creepy.

He did. Moved on the female reporter as if he were going to devour the quivering girl. I was screaming out to her: Run! Run!

she was aggresive to him first. re-watch and you will see her pointing and gesticulating with raised voice.

Of course he shouldn't resign - what a pathetic beat up with predictable howls of outrage from the usual suspects.

Pointing out the differences between men and women is absolutely taboo - unless the comparisons favour women.

A few years ago legislation was passed in the US to lower the fitness and physical strength requirements for wannabee fire "fighters" because they favoured men.

Surely there must be a better option than replacing discrimination with absurdity. Sadly debate is impossible usually because of the hysterical reactions of the nutty feminist sorority.

I dont' belong to a feminist soroity but I would like to say his comments are the same as saying that most men are violent women bashers. He is in a position of authority he should have given a genuine apology but he did'nt, he is an arrogant pathetic excuse for a man and pity his poor wife if he's lucky enough to have one and his daughters. How would you like to bleed out of your penis Alasdair, yes you would probably admit yourself to hospital do the right thing and resign!!

I didn't see the "apology" so can't comment but yours is one of them most sensible comments on this fiasco that I have seen.

What extraordinary mindless drivel. How dare you cast aspersions on his relationship with wife and family. This guy you are pilloring clearly I recall stated in the original interview that he pays 2x female lawyers more than male colleagues on merit.
The NZ herald beat up this morning quotes an EMA board member Laurie Margraine while admitting he had not heard comments still condemns the man. Margraine - tosspot of the century !
PC gone mad - what a beat up.

how can you defend the way he conducted himself in the interview? He has no brains and does not deserve to be in the position he is in. Anyone defending him after seeing the interview and hearing the comments needs to have a hard look at themselves. Inexcusable.

I wonder what advice line at the EMA would recommend ????

Sad to see the self destruction on the full TV3 interview - link below. He is no longer a credible representative for employers.

Agree absolutely. And for this alone he needs to resign, he will never be taken seriously anymore.

Agree absolutely. And for this alone he needs to resign, he will never be taken seriously anymore.

Any comments on his office?

His is a political advocacy position. The political doors will now be closed. He is no longer effective.

The only problem is that he is an inarticulate spokesman (yes -man) for the employers' association. Some women employees (the more assertive ones) do constantly demand greater flexibility in working hours and conditions. That invariably comes at a cost in workload to their non-assertive colleagues (male and female) and a financial cost to their employer. When times are tough, employers are looking for fewer of these high maintenance employees. That is why, when given a choice, some may prefer male employees.

more soap than thriller

White Hone

Wonder what AT's mother, wife, sisters and working female relatives think of him?

Not only is Alisdair Thompson a fool for his comments about women, he also showed on National TV he is a bully by walking into the face of the lady reporter. What a shocking and disgraceful performance. I have never seen such bad business behaviour in my long career.

I know plenty of talented women in business who can run rings around the majority of men.

Resign Alisdair.

You mention "lady reporter" as if she needed to be treated differently to a gentleman reporter.
I think your comments show your own sexist attitude.

This man is a lunatic. When the lovely Helen ruled this country, she would have put him in his place. Shame that now she is busy keeping Carter busy in NY, she has no time fr these big issues.

Anyway, he should be fired!

Helen was pure evil, God help them.

So many SNAG's on this list. Pathetic lot.
Wimmin, shrieking hysterical bunch wouldn't even want to keep one as a pet.

Perhaps rather than posting vitriol on here - people should call on the board of EMA northern to sack this mysognistic disgrace for bringing the EMA into disrepute.

If he isnt sacked then I'd be asking some pretty serious questions around why my business should be paying membership fees

Funny. When I look back on my career it's actually been men who have demonstrated the the most negative of traits including lack of productivity, missing in action, incompetance and lack of interpersonal skills.


No wonder employers in NZ had a bad name - with such an idiot as their represntative. I wonder what you call people like him and his obvious lack of brains - doesn't he waste his employer's time. As a male employer (in 2 different companies), I am embarassed and am considering the value of EMA (after all, the board employed this Jerk).

Perhaps people should listen to the full interview and get it in context. This man was under extreme pressure which was not helped by a reporter winding him up. The reporter clearly had a prearranged script intended to get a reaction. On balance the man generally handled it pretty well - many of his points were well made.

Agreed. Tabloid journalists are more interested in making the news than reporting it.

Could it also be that when kids are sick, the ones who normally take time off to be with the kdis (women) do it because their earn less than theri males partners?
In my household, my husband takes the time off because he erans less..
also has this pretence of a man heard about the men flu?

This is the clown who takes great joy in publishing Personal Grievence results from the Employment Court and Mediation Service, what a "Chump"

Poor guy dragged into a no win debate by that bint Council of Trade Unions (CTU) president Helen Kelly who darned near cost NZ the hobbit movie. Poisons anyone and anything she touches.

I listened to the whole interview and what he was trying to do is to save his face, whcih he obviously did a very poor job of it. he was a prick, a bully and if he can't handle pressure, maybe he is in the wrong job.

There's no excuse for that kind of comment and a lack of sincere apology demonstrates that he is genuinely discriminatory. Perhaps Mister Thompson should spend less time with his cronies and more time familiarising himself with modern business.

Given he runs a member-based body, the simple solution is for members that disagree with gender discrimination to withdraw their membership.

The picture, at the top, crys out for a caption.

"It's a 'monster', innit?"

Looked at the stats on sickness between men and women employees last night on the web. The difference is in the statistical margin of error. He has no facts for his assertions.

Let's see how the feminazis react to this research.

Don't hold your breath awaiting any sort of retraction or acknowledgement.

This whole pay disparity has gotten out of control. In fact, my missus has gone so "corporate" in pursuit of the dollar she's raking it in hand over fist .... but, can I get her home to cook me tea, clean the house and so on? can I heck! Me and the dogs have to fend for ourselves. It's an outrage! Bring back inequality i say.

Clearly women are at a disadvantage because of their PERIODS and need special sick leave consideration so that we can level the playing field.

Just sayin'.


Fred Flintstone wants his job

Having employed both men and women in business since 1973 my experience has been that yes women take more time off than men on average. Most dont understand the financial costs. If you have to pay a days sick pay and then have to employ a temp from an agency who will be less capable than the permanent employee the net result is either a break even or loss for that days activity.

Alas as most are employee and not employers the actual facts dont register. Some because they really dont get it and others like many posting here because they are thick stupid morons

Good that you are prepared to use your name and stand behind your words. I assume that you are a man . if you have children do you take leave to look after them when they are ill?

What sort of 'scientific' survey is THIS?

"A National Bureau of Economic Research working paper, Biological Gender Differences, Absenteeism and the Earning Gap, found higher absenteeism due to the menstrual cycle accounted for nearly 12% of the gender pay gap.

Rather an extrapolation isn't it?

FROM “Using the personnel data set of a large Italian bank,...'

TO: “In most Western countries illness-related absenteeism is higher among female workers than among male workers" ?

What also concerns me is Alisdair Thompson's statement:

"And if a person's productivity is more or less than someone else, that will be recognised in their pay."

This is absolute garbage.

Most employees are on fixed wage rates or fixed salaries and are not paid on a 'piece-work' basis - so how on earth is their 'productivity' measured?

Isn't it fair to say that employees paid on a fixed hourly rate (wages), and fixed yearly rate (salaries) are paid for their 'ability' to work (produce) as opposed to WHAT they produce?

So - how on earth is workplace 'productivity' actually defined/ measured/quantified?

Likewise, where are the meaningful statistics about leave taken for sickness/ childcare/, backed on researched FACTS and EVIDENCE?

"If you really want to keep some statistics, look at who takes the most sick leave. Why do they take the most sick leave? Women do in general. Why? Because, ah, you know, once a month they have sick problems.

"Not all women, but some do. They have children that they have to take time off to go home and take leave of. Therefore their productivity — not their fault, it’s … it may be because they haven’t got it sorted out with their partners, where the partners take more responsibility for what happens outside work." (Alisdair Thompson)

Penny Bright

Wrong time of the month Penny?

Theer are plenty of studies showing that a large proportion of gender-based pay differences is attributable to female absences from the workforce.

But of course, it's so much easier to just be outraged isn't it?

Actually, a review of the Italian research by researchers at Columbia Business School found it flawed.
"We analyze absenteeism of teachers and find no evidence of increased female absenteeism on a 28-day cycle. We also show that the evidence of 28-day cycles in the Italian data is not robust to the correction of coding
errors or small changes in specification. We show that five day workweeks can cause misleading group differences in absence hazards at multiples of 7, including 28 days.

I know I wouldn't be able to spend so much time at the pub if it wasn't for my female employee's.

They are great and I wouldn't ever contemplate changing them for males.

what a dick. I hope you resent posting this. Soon NBR will reveal your real name. Will you stand strong then? lol nah wimp

This employer with so many female employees may be a eligible man (not married or already divorced) or may not be a man...

I agree.

I just wish NBR's article title matched the contents. Something that amounts to 12% (and that from a flawed study) of the difference doesn't 'Back' his comments.

where is your evidence this is a flawed study?

Does everyone agree that it is fact that physiologically women and men have their differences? Then why get so defensive and offended when these differences are aired in public. Celebrate the differences, if we were all the same it would be boring!

Absolutely we are all different. But it's easier for people with a personal agenda to attack the messenger, especially if what the messenger is saying is uncomfortable to hear. That's the position of the EMA boss. He told the truth but it hurt some people. Instead of debating the issues, the media in particular thought they could create a sensation.

You've only got to look at Campbell Live producer Pip Keane's comments. She deliberatly took the "best bits" of the Mihi Forbes interview. Pip doesn't seem to realise that her obligations under the Broadcasting Act don't allow her to take the best bits but require her to provide balance and fairness.

I agree with Alasdair. That's just a fact.

Boo hoo, women, please go make a big fuss over it.

Women who makes a lot of noise here do this because they are not employers.

Go on, go simmer for days over his.

Ignorant, outdated attitudes are not worth simmering over, sorry.

I never thought I would say this but ...


Why don't we start measuring the productivity of all the smokers in the workplace?

With all those 'smokos' outside of the workplace that they take take, not to mention all of the counterproductive gossip sessions they can't possibly be as productive without even considering the proven propensity for respiratory issues resulting in sick days... besides which under human rights legislation it's actually not illegal (and for that matter it's politically correct) to actively discriminate against them.

So as female executive with no medical chance of having children and no "monthly sickness" will the EMA campaign for me to have equal pay to others, or will that be discrimination on the grounds of fertility.

If i have a hysterectomy can i get a 12% pay rise?

In response to Penny Bright | Friday, June 24, 2011 - 1:12pm

Theer are plenty of studies showing that a large proportion of gender-based pay differences is attributable to female absences from the workforce.

But of course, it's so much easier to just be outraged isn't it?
Bunter | Friday, June 24, 2011 - 4:45pm

errr.... really 'Bunter'?

Like to provide the links to such 'research' - 'Bunter' - or like Alisdair do you prefer to just 'make it up'?

Penny Bright

His name is spelt ALASDAIR

Why is everyone shooting the messenger?? He is factually correct. And my experience as an employer, also supports his claims. Shame about his delivery though.

I would suggest that before anymore comments are written that readers peruse the comments by Brian Edwards.
Puts a better perspective on the issue

I own a number of businesses. One in manufacturing dominated by male staff, one in hospitality dominated by female staff. I know I'm just one, but I've been in business for over 20 years. Over that time, my male staff (not my existing ones thankfully) were much much more unreliable and had much more sick days than my female staff. I have never noticed a "once a month" issue in my staff, even though it is there, it hasn't had an impact on productivity that I've noticed, my female staff, to their credit solider on. He must not be allowed to resign, he must be terminated, or I will resign from the Employers Assoc.

Thank you Norman for your considered informative reply. Good to have evidence from the coalface so to speak.

Before you comment, ask yourself: are you an employer for many years?

My guess exactly.

I back Thompson although it was a bit stupid for the bloke to voice this open secret in front of a female unionist.

I would think twice over hiring a female, if I can. Too much hassle in my experience.

That's right, I am an employer of some 20 staff for more than 10yrs. What about you???

My guess exactly. The haters who commented here are just a bunch of whinging '8 to 5' employee who have absolutely no entrepreneur aspirations and ideas of how much burden it is to run a business.

That's right. Get fuming.

Read the comment above you, and numerous before that. Many employers disagree with you, me included. Maybe your female employees take more sickies because of your bigoted presumptions which carry through to your attitude. Think about it, Chicken or are the egg!

Didn't see the interview. From where I stand and lunch and several coffees today, females at times do have problems. That is mother nature. Wake up NZ and stop this PC crap.
Many can do the same job but sometimes, mother nature takes over and nothing you can do about it.
Wake up.
Nothing different from males hiding due to a hangover as one we know had this morning - or was it drugs?.

The femininazis have come out in force on this one. They're not interested in research showing that what Thompson said was correct. Let's demonise the guy because, well, because he's a while middle aged male commenting on periods!

hahahaha you are very funny. Thinking of me as a 'feminnazi'. A rugby loving kiwi bloke with a good family and employing lots of great kiwi women and men. That sums up your IQ and probably EQ. No wonder you are unsuccessful!

The femininazis have come out in force on this one. They're not interested in research showing that what Thompson said was correct. Let's demonise the guy because, well, because he's a while middle aged male commenting on periods!

Anonymous | Friday, June 24, 2011 - 8:13pm

errrr.......... WRONG 'Anonymous'.

I'd be FASCINATED to see ANY research 'showing that what Thompson said was correct'.

(Not that I consider myself to be a 'feminazi'
- just someone who supports 'seeking truth from FACTS' ;)

Penny Bright

Ahh, do you realize you just made that comment on an article titled "Research backs Thompson" that is about research that backs Thompson? Thats the intellectual equivalent of covering your ears and going "LALALALALALALALA"

Didn't know David Farrar was a 'feminazi'?

Whatever next!


A horrendous own goal
June 24th, 2011 at 11:14 am by David Farrar

The original comments by Alasdair Thompson were unwise and stupid (and I will detail why further down) but his dual performances on TV3 are the stuff legends, or nightmares, are made of.

Watch his interview with Rachel Morton and then with Mihi Forbes. I don’t think I have ever seen such sheer awfulness before. Lew at Kiwipolitico has done an initial list of 10 things the EMA did wrong.

This has gone from just being an issue about Alasdair to an issue about the EMA Northern. I can imagine employers all over Auckland quietly removing from their office walls their certificate of membership before anyone notices it. They’d be embarrassed to be associated with the last 24 hours.

This may have been the most effective brand destruction we have seen since Wellington Airport tried to rename Wellington into Wellywood, or the CTU declared war on hobbits.

Penny Bright

Don't worry Penny, his comments don't affect you - you'll need a job or at least be looking for one for them to be relevant.

Whatever......God knows what you are saying, but not us mere humans

Maybe your inability to understand is a reflection of your intelligence Rob, it seems pretty straight forward. Perhaps you need a nanny state government to do your thinking for you and explain it to you in Play School terms - 'Jemima doesn't get discriminated against because she's a benefit bludging parasite.'

love the thoughts and the humour Penny!
Great way with words!

It just breaks my heart to see a good man butchered by all those SS frauleins.

Well I wouldn't employ & train a woman that will might run off on maternity leave at any time, leaving me with not only 1 employee short, but the inability to replace her as I have to keep the job placing open for her.

I'm sorry, but it's not sexist. What it is, whether it's legal or not, is a direct & very real consequence of the maternity leave legislation. A direct consequence of organisations such as the Department of Women's Affairs - the actions of women's advocacy groups has resulted in discrimination against women in the workplace.

We are in a free market economy anyone can choose to work elsewhere, if your not paid what you THINK your worth leave don't whinge that your underpaid.... Aren't we all paid what we're worth is this not how the capitalist system works!!! Do we want a socialist system as this seems to be what is being asked for.
Your paid what you are worth to that employer PERIOD ;)

As to this article, the 'science' is hack science with lowest standards, and yet another reason to DIStrust scientists. They lie! Here they have extrapolated one questionable, isolated result to say all are the same. Peer review has slammed the study as flawed in the extreme. And what about the other 88%? That disparity comes from sexist management and sexist company policies. The pay disparity also comes from women employees having to use part of their pay packets to buy expensive makeup, in order to keep their jobs, which men are not required to do. This guy should not just resign, he should be investigated for abuse, since he is clearly a bully and a jerk. He has to go and not come back. He has lost all credibility and has become, by his own hand, a pariah, clearly demonstrating mental illness that has a lot of violence inherent in it. Someone who holds a latent violence against women, as evinced on TV, is someone who should never hold any position of power over them.

In response to Penny Bright | Friday, June 24, 2011 - 9:48pm

Don't worry Penny, his comments don't affect you - you'll need a job or at least be looking for one for them to be relevant.
Anonymous | Friday, June 24, 2011 - 11:20pm

Oh I've 'got a job' - 'Anonymous' - I just don't get paid for it.


Penny Bright

When you say you have a job but don't get paid for it, you really mean you try to pass your hobbies & interests off as a job while the taxpayer pays your living expenses via a benefit, is that it Penny? Does it also mean that what you consider to be a job is actually putting the boot into those who fund your parasitic lifestyle by working & paying taxes?

As earlier stated we get paid what we are worth.

I am concerned that the staff at NBR have got some of their language wrong. I assume that it is some kind of euphemism to call menstruation the menstrual cycle. In fact at menarche girls begin their menstrual cycles which are as it implies cycles. These continue until women reach menopause. So if they were taking time off for their menstrual cycles it would include all the time from 12ish to 50ish. Except of course for when they are either pregnant or of course under stress when the cycles sometimes stop. Because the visible sign of these cycles is the bleeding then this is most generally referred to. I am happy (as a qualified biology teacher and woman who has now experienced all of these ie am post menopausal) to offer lessons to your staff if you wish but I'm sure there is enough information available on the internet to meet your needs.

..One wondered what in fact the bigger issue would be to an employer A) A woman who was really good at her job and actually did take a day off every month or B) someone like Mr. Thompson who managed to be a complete plonker and a liability every day of the week? Hard to say. Mr. Thompson is also right. We all know that blokes if they had periods would roll their own tampons in some menstrual Marlboro moment and go and log pine trees to prove how macho it all was and then give themselves a monthly bonus cheque...(contin.)
Inside out column Sick Issues.

He keeps his job; as I thought he would. He is just a mouthpiece for an ingrained systemic sexism. Men are trained from birth to feel more important than women, and need pay disparity (amongst other things) to feel superior. The old boys network of employers hasn't changed at all.
Open secret indeed! Well, it's not so secret any more boys.
Therefore I say: everyone who disagrees with pay disparity should strive to make the EMA finally get with the program. If they back this tool Thompson, give THEM the flak! Heads should be rolling and may well yet!
To anon: if we gat what we're worth, then you must be paying for the privilege, huh?

to rockisgood: you obviously don't know how profits are created. The work-to-pay ratio is skewed because employees are overworked and underpaid, while bosses are lazy and overpaid. Profits come from taking the value of work done and keeping most of it. That, too, is an 'open secret'.

to rockisgood: you obviously don't know how profits are created. The work-to-pay ratio is skewed because employees are overworked and underpaid, while bosses are lazy and overpaid. Profits come from taking the value of work done and keeping most of it. That, too, is an 'open secret'.