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Should Women Get Paid Menstrual Leave?

Posted in General Health 30 Jan, 2015

Women in the workplace are all too used to suffering through that 'time of the month' even though they may not always be prepared for the pain and discomfort that comes with having a period even if they are using the contraceptive pill.

A leading professor in obstetrics and gynaecology, Professor Gedis Grudzinskas has spoken out to say that women should have paid menstrual leave each month, whenever they feel under the weather. The idea is that women would get one to three days paid leave, separate from sickness leave.

Dr Grudzinskas reasons that women feel 'grotty' during their periods and that taking pride in your work is more difficult when you don't feel motivated to perform to the best of your abilities.

The concept and history

Menstrual leave may sound like a new concept to many in the West but it's already recognized in Asian countries like India, Japan and Indonesia. It began in the early 20th century when it emerged that many employed young women were struggling with sanitary facilities under their working conditions – especially if they were factory or transportation workers.

There was a lot of interest in paid menstrual leave since a majority of women workers were unmarried and under the age of 21 so the appeal was much broader than maternity leave. Menstrual leave was also thought to prevent any problems associated with childbirth like miscarriage and premature labour.

Over the years, the number of women taking menstrual leave declined, however, and this was in part due to the increasing number of business women who believed that taking more days off would harm their long-term career prospects.

Menstrual leave in effect

Legislation for menstrual leave passed in Japan in 1947, enabling women who 'suffered heavily' during menstruation, or performed work that was 'injurious to the body during menstruation' to stay at home. In Indonesia, women are entitled to take two days menstrual leave a month, but many companies ignore the law and some have forced women to show 'proof' before they can have the time off. In Taiwan, female workers are guaranteed three days of menstrual leave every year, along with 30 days of half-paid sick leave.

More recently, menstrual leave has been discussed in Canada but was thrown out of Russian parliament last year, causing uproar among activists who believe if the law came into effect it could provide more protection for women in the workplace.

Menstrual leave arrangements

Some employers acknowledge that work attendance may slip if they provide menstrual leave and also have concerns that several of their employees may have their periods at the same time. This has encouraged some employers to offer a 'menstrual bonus' to incentivise women to stay at work during this time, meaning that both employers and employees benefit from this arrangement.

The debate over menstrual leave centres on the fact that the period pain women experience can be extremely intense and, as this is a human rights issue, it's only fair that women should get time off if it makes them feel unwell. Ultimately, the issue of providing menstrual leave is about promoting positivity in the workplace, but also finding a balance that benefits businesses and their female employees alike.

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