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Would You Take Menstrual Leave?
The concept of paid menstrual leave is actually not a new idea. It originated in Japan in the 1940s.
Female workers were given time off as a means of improving productivity. In turn, the practise has been adopted in India and South Korea. Individual companies in the UK and US have made the concept an option for their workers. The topic has recently been discussed in the UK on mainstream outlets such as This Morning, Channel 4 News andBuzzfeed, furthering the cause’s campaign.
On one hand, supporters argue that menstrual leave gives women the opportunity to recuperate at a time that can be both physically and mentally challenging. While the acknowledgment from major companies about the physical and mental challenge of working on your period is a step in the right direction, this idea is perhaps most appropriate for those who suffer aggressive forms of menstrual cramps and pain. Should all women be entitled to menstrual leave, or only some? How do we differentiate?
We’re all brutally aware that pre-menstrual syndrome has been the butt of jokes towards women for years, but there are also more complex problems. The percentage of women that suffer from dysmenorrhoea - severe period pains - was found to be at 41.1%, while 81.1% of women in the same study stated they had experienced period pain in some form over the course of their period. While many women simply ‘get on’ with their work while menstruating, it can be incredibly difficult for those with more debilitating pain.
On the flip side, however, is the idea that women are somewhat ‘inferior’ to handling pain to men, or that productivity declines when a woman is menstruating.
Critics point to the fact that companies may be reluctant to hire women if this policy is put in place. In 2014, law firm Slater & Gordon surveyed managers in their branches, and discovered a hesitancy to hire women in their 20s and 30s as opposed to their male counterparts due to the prospect of maternity leave. The study was found to be a shocking 1 in 3 out of the 500 managers they surveyed. Menstrual leave, under this context, could therefore be perceived as an even more substantial loss of productivity, if the policy was ever made a requirement by law.
There are, however, arguments that suggest this change is discriminatory to women not affected by periods.
Menopausal women and transwomen are seemingly excluded from this, when they themselves are faced with bodily issues out of their own control. There seems to be no easy way of finding a middle ground with a discussion as complex as this. At this moment in time, the proposal is being made as a choice of the employer, and not necessarily a requirement by law. Therefore, it would not be a requirement to take the leave, but instead one’s own decision.
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