In secondary school (high school), I wondered why my female classmates often went to the sick bay complaining of menstrual cramps. I thought that it was all about wanting to miss classes and spending time at the sick bay. When I began experiencing pain pangs during my periods, I understood better and became empathetic towards them. Even in my late 20s, period pains are yet to become a thing of the past. I also do not get to eat because I know I will vomit. And so, it is often a day or night of pains, weakness, restlessness, disinterestedness, and loss of appetite. Due to my struggle with menstrual pain, I often wonder if countries and corporations would include menstrual leave as a national labor or organizational law.
Though, some countries and workplaces implemented paid menstrual leave policies. The most recent country is Spain which implemented five days of paid menstrual leave for working women. Other countries that have enacted the policy include Japan, Zambia, Vietnam, Taiwan, South Korea, and Indonesia (Masih 2023). These countries implemented the policy or in countries where the policy is a public debate do so due to pronatal, economic, or industrial protection reasons (Baird, Hill, and Colussi 2021). In Nigeria, a tech company by the name of Klasha provides up to five days of menstrual leave to female employees with painful periods (Chukwu 2022). Similarly, companies such as Coexist in the UK, Gozoop in India, Victorian Women’s Trust in Australia, and Nuvento in the United States (US) have implemented policy as an organizational law (Barnack-Tavlaris et al. 2019; Haupt 2022). These countries where organizations have menstrual leave as an organizational policy do not have the law implemented as a national law. Moreover, the case of the United States is a peculiar one because the US is the only developed nation without paid maternity or paternity leave.
Are there limitations or criticisms to the implementation of this policy?
I remember putting up a post on my Whatsapp on menstrual leave provision and a friend mentioned that this is not a realistic policy for organizations, since corporations are competitive and run on profit. As such, the workplace would suffer from a female employee’s absence. This line of argument entrenches the ideal worker norm of the workplace (Baird, Hill, and Colussi 2021). An ideal worker is a man who can do all things unhindered by menstrual cramps, childcare, and family.
Also, a study indicates that women experience negative drawbacks such as discrimination against women and stigmatization of menstruation (Barnack-Tavlaris et al. 2019). Aside from what individuals see as the drawbacks of menstrual policy to women, some scholars argue that it promotes biological essentialism – the traditional notion of what the assigned role of women is within society such as women’s bodies are for childbearing (Baird, Hill, and Colussi 2021).
Despite the perceived limitations and criticism on the limitation of menstrual leave, the leave promotes women’s health by ensuring the mental and psychological well-being of women, productivity, and gender equality in the workplace (Baird, Hill, and Colussi 2021; Barnack-Tavlaris et al. 2019).
Are you a manager, team lead, or state policymaker and would you push for the implementation of paid menstrual leave policy?
Image Credit: Freepik and Canva
Baird, Marian, Elizabeth Hill, and Sydney Colussi. 2021. “Mapping Menstrual Leave Legislation and Policy Historically and Globally: A Labor Entitlement to Reinforce, Remedy, or Revolutionize Gender Equality at Work?” Comparative Labor Law & Policy Journal 42(1):187–228.
Barnack-Tavlaris, Jessica L., Kristina Hansen, Rachel B. Levitt, and Michelle Reno. 2019. “Taking Leave to Bleed: Perceptions and Attitudes toward Menstrual Leave Policy.” Health Care for Women International 40(12):1355–73. doi: 10.1080/07399332.2019.1639709.
Chukwu, Ngozi. 2022. “Klasha Becomes First Nigerian Tech Company to Introduce Menstrual Leave Policy.” TechCabal. Retrieved April 12, 2023 (https://techcabal.com/2022/12/14/female-led-klasha-breaks-a-barrier-to-gender-inclusion-in-nigeria-with-new-menstrual-leave-policy/).
Haupt, Angela. 2022. “Menstrual Leave: Why Some Companies Are Offering Time off for Periods.” Washington Post, September 8.
Masih, Niha. 2023. “Need Time off Work for Period Pain? These Countries Offer ‘Menstrual Leave.’” Washington Post, February 17.