In countries like South Korea and Japan paid menstrual leave is the norm, it is also becoming increasingly more common across China. Female employees are not expected to produce a doctor’s note to explain their absence and their wages aren’t docked as a result of their menstruation. However in the UK there are very few companies that have even broached the subject, let alone actually put it in to practice.
For a large number of women the time of the month can be very painful and traumatic but due to the taboo surrounding menstrual leave many women feel they don’t have the option to take sick leave and carry on regardless of their suffering.
“We need to talk about menstruation”
Women often endure painful menstrual cramps and other monthly symptoms as we feel uncomfortable explaining to our employers and colleagues why we need to go home. We need to take our lead from these Asian countries and bring the discussion around paid menstrual leave out into the open so that women can manage their pain and workload without the added stress and worry caused by not being able to talk about it.
Women should feel that they have the power to be responsible for their own bodies and that they can put their menstrual health first. Working whilst on your period, particularly in non-office based jobs can cause physical damage as well as greatly increasing stress levels. If we were able to discretely take ourselves home or know that we weren’t expected to drag ourselves in we would be far more productive and could plan our working week around our period.
“Women should feel that they have the power to be responsible for their own bodies and that they can put their menstrual health first.”
Some may argue that women could take advantage of one or two days off each month, but in Japan for example productivity has increased as stress levels reduce and women are made to feel that they have the choice to home and don’t sit suffering in silence. It is true that not all women suffer in the same way and some may feel that they don’t need to take leave but the important thing is that they feel they have a choice.
In all workplaces there needs to be a tacit agreement where women feel completely comfortable to take themselves home for half a day if they need to or chose to work from home once a month instead.
It’s up to us …
It’s up to us as employees and employers to broach the subject and find the confidence to be vocal about the importance of paid menstrual leave because believe me if it were a male issue paid menstrual leave would have been common place a long time ago.
For more on menstruation and the workplace check out this BBC Article