Gedis Grudzinskas, professor of obstetrics and gynaecology in England, believes women who suffer from period pains and feel under the weather each month should get paid menstrual leave.
He believes, paid menstrual leave will boost women’s motivation and thus in the long run improve their work. The Daily Mail quoted him saying, “Some women feel really grotty when menstruating. Coming into work is a struggle and they feel lousy. When you feel like that, it’s harder to take pride in your work or perform as well. This is about employers being sensible and aware.”
Menstrual leave has been recognised in some countries, like Japan and Indonesia. In Canada the issue is being discussed, and in Russia, even though the parliament threw out the idea, it was still brought up for debate.
Points of contention
There are some things to take into consideration when discussing this matter. It is an issue that should be openly debated in every country — the developed, as well as the developing.
First, the days given off for period pains and complications must stand apart from sick leave that is granted to all employees. This is primarily because menstruation is not a sickness.
Second, much like maternity leave, menstrual leave should not interfere with a woman’s career progression or structure. The point being, that women cannot be discriminated against for their biological differences.
Some will argue that granting women paid menstrual leave every month will further the divide between men and women in the labour force. Most employers will choose to hire only men – who will not be taking extra days off work every month. This could also widen the pay gap between the sexes.
Third, this is a facility that can easily be taken advantage of. It would be incredibly easy for women to fake pain, sickness or even go so far as to fake the dates of their period to suit their needs. It would be near impossible to prove they were wrong and thus employers would be taken for a ride – every month!
However, it could also swing the complete opposite way, as it did in Kerala where 45 women were strip searched, so supervisors could find out which one of them was on her period. Even though the likeliness of this taking place in most civilised societies is low, there are possibilities where women could be exploited or mistreated.
One cannot also fail to mention the un-denying fact that this policy could further exacerbate the preconceived notion of “weak women” — the idea that somehow women are weaker than men because of the reproductive systems they are born with.
It could also further propel the fight that most women have been waging for decades now – women do not only belong in the private sphere – the home – women are fully capable of working in every field, as they have done for years now.
Lastly, this is a policy that could only work in the developed/first world. In a country like India, giving paid menstrual leave to women will widen the gap between the rich and poor.
This is a policy for white collared jobs, for women in air conditioned offices, who earn a salary, not a daily wage.
This is a policy that would never make its way down to the unorganised sector. To the woman working in a construction site, lugging bricks on her head, or the one sweeping the streets at the crack of dawn, the maid, washing dishes in almost every household – they are unorganised labour, and they are the ones who need this policy the most. Yet for them this policy will never see the light of day.
Unionised and organised labour experience the benefits of labour laws and perks. They enjoy pensions, fixed salaries and paid leave. Daily wage workers, enjoy no such privileges. Thus I do not believe this is a policy that can work in the developing world as of now.
Women are finally beginning to enjoy a prominent position in the working world. There are now more women in leadership roles than ever before in history. It is indeed necessary to debate laws and policies that will help women in the work force, that can motivate them and encourage more to join.
Yet, it is just as vital to ensure that the policies formed will help women as a whole and not just the privileged few. Periods are an every woman issue, and until this policy can help every woman, it remains redundant.