BusinessHealth and Fitness

Paid Period Leave: 4 Ways You Can Help Your Company Consider ‘Menstrual Leave’ 

Menstruating women are all too familiar with the tiptoed act they put on at work. They need to rush to the bathroom ‘discreetly’ armed with their sanitary product woe betide a colleague spots them holding it; the uncomfortable ‘fear’ every time they need to sneeze or stand up; an unnoticeable glance at their chair to see if they’ve left a stain and the pain of cramps in the middle of a meeting.


Taking time off work during your period may seem radical, but it’s not a novel concept. It’s been normal practice in certain nations for decades.


Every month, 30 to 40% of all persons who have a period have acute pain and other symptoms. According to several studies, menstruation cramps cause an average of nine days of lost productivity every year.


Japan recognized this long ago: in 1947, it became the first country to include period leave in its labour laws. Seirikyuuka (physical leave) was available to any woman who had painful periods or did work that could aggravate period pain. Indonesia, Taiwan, the Philippines, and Italy have all followed suit since then (although only for women who deal with dysmenorrhea, serious pain in the pelvis or abdomen during their period).


“Some women suffer from debilitating conditions like endometriosis and fibroids, which have a significant monthly impact,” Brady said. “Everyone has had those awful moments when they’re having a heavy period and they’re in the middle of a meeting.” Let’s not undervalue the amount of anxiety and stress that comes with it. You have no idea what it’s like if you’re not a woman or have never experienced it.”


Women are expected to pick themselves up by the bootstraps and get to work


Menstrual symptoms differ from one person to the next. Although some women journey through their monthly cycle, some just – particularly those who have conditions like endometriosis or premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) – experience a range of burdening side effects. Cramps, backaches, and migraines are among the most common causes of pain in women of reproductive age, according to researchers.


Regardless, many women try to push through and go to work. This is often because they feel hesitant to disclose menstrual-related symptoms to their boss, for fear of being seen as weak or helpless of performing their jobs, says Gabrielle Golding, a senior lecturer at South Australia’s Adelaide Law School.


Why not take advantage of your sick day?

people sitting on chair in front of computer​​

In the region, period leave has been a contentious issue, with many arguing that it should be classified as a sick day. But lumping period-related time off under sick days comes with issues: Firstly, if a company requires a doctor’s note to justify a sick day, this means that staff will be forced to consult a doctor whenever they need time off to recover from cramps or heavy bleeding. The separation of period leave and sick days is also a symbol of fairness. From a health standpoint, research shows that women face systemic challenges. And these issues do not exist in male physiology, such as a monthly period cycle.


As a result, having a small benefit in leave for the [health] challenges that women face appears to be equitable. On the other hand, we appear to be equally equitable for men in terms of having children. Both mothers and fathers receive equal pay for parental leave.


With that being said, if you are from the HR department and you want to propose a paid period  leave for your women employees, continue reading below: 


1. Do your homework and share your findings


Periods are still taboo — and the only way to normalize them is to talk about them openly.


Use suitable Slack channels, company all-hands or internal newsletters to share knowledge about the impact of the period on work-life and the positive effect period leave can have on your employees’ wellbeing and productivity. This will aid in the understanding and acceptance of the need for policy change.


Check-in with the men at your company as well to see if they have any physical or mental issues. It’s critical to include all groups when working inclusively.


2. Set up a procedure that is convenient for everyone


Two questions may be asked of you if you present the idea of period leave to the higher-ups. How do you ensure that women take their leave, and how do you manage this from a logistical standpoint? It’s critical to establish a simple process for taking a period of leave. You can suggest that employees submit period leave requests to either their direct supervisors or the people team. This allows them to ask the person with whom they are most at ease.


3. Obtain the support of senior management


Once you’ve received approval, you can choose two sponsors from among them to assist you in introducing period leave to mid-level management and the entire company. It’s critical that this isn’t dismissed as “just another HR support idea.”


Your middle management team, while open-minded and understanding, may be more resistant. We also expected male employees to say that “men, too, deserve a mental health day.” Having sponsors of various genders can aid in promoting the importance of and acceptance of period leave.


4. Spread the word


It’s critical to have a clear understanding of the what, why, and how when implementing a new benefit. Period leave should be transparent and well-understood throughout the company, not just among women.


The communication was carried out in three stages:


  1. During a leadership offsite, the new benefit was presented.


  1. During our all-hands day, I presented period leave to all employees, explaining why it was implemented and how to take period leave.


  1. We explained the process to all women again so they could ask any questions they had that they didn’t want to ask in front of the entire company.


When you share the word, it’s normal to expect to have lengthy discussions with leaders and several men, but you might be surprised how they all can quickly grasp the significance of the policy. Our goal is to raise awareness about the true impact of periods, not to discriminate against men or to make women appear weaker. The feedback from all team members was overwhelmingly positive.


Only by speaking up and turning an awkward topic into a normal conversation can taboos be broken. This was the first of many, and we’ll keep learning, reflecting, and improving to better serve our people.


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