Every month millions of women around the world face the physical and emotional challenges of menstruation. Despite being a regular biological process occurring in about half of the world’s population, menstruation continues to be stigmatized and hushed about in everyday conversations.
For years, women have globally struggled to manage work-related expectations and their menstrual cycles, often suffering in silence in the absence of any support or understanding from employers. However, in the testament of hope, in February 2023, Spain became the first country in the European Union to provide paid menstrual leave of three to five days every month to its female workforce.
Albeit the newest, Spain is not the first country to pass a law regarding menstrual leave policy around the world. Japan, Taiwan, Indonesia, South Korea, and Zambia also have policies that incorporate the physical and emotional needs of menstruating females in their respective countries. The recent development in Spain has sparked a frenzy of conversations around paid menstrual leave, with many questioning the very need for such policies.
To help you understand the issue in detail, let’s explore the idea of paid menstrual leave and its transformative impact on the female workforce.
What do paid menstrual leaves mean?
Millions of people worldwide are expected to navigate the pain, discomfort, and emotional distress of periods along with their workplace productivity and everyday tasks. To combat this situation, many people advocate paid menstrual leave of 2-3 days to alleviate this discomfort. Menstrual leaves are a specific paid time off for people with painful periods to rest and recuperate. These leaves are given in addition to the regular sick leaves provided to other employees.
While paid menstrual leave policies worldwide are specifically directed toward women, it is essential to extend this discourse toward gender inclusivity and incorporate the needs of non-binary menstruating individuals as well.
Why do we need menstrual leave policies?
Menstruation is a tough and challenging time for most people. As per research by Mike Armour and team, 90 percent of women report regular period pains with little evidence of it reducing with age. In addition to physical pain, periods also cause emotional distress, fatigue, and other symptoms that affect the productivity of women at workplaces.
Therefore paid menstrual leave can have a significant positive impact on the lives of female workers. This includes:
1. Improved health and greater productivity
By allowing women to take the required time off and manage their health, these policies can significantly reduce the distress associated with menstruation, thereby improving employees’ overall health and productivity.
2. Inclusive workplace policies
With menstrual leave policies, employers can take a step forward in the direction of workplace equity and ensure to cater to the unique challenges that a major part of their workforce deals with. This, in turn, makes employees feel heard, seen, and represented, resulting in greater dedication toward work and also attracting promising new talent to the company.
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3. Address the stigma and shame.
The point of having paid menstrual leaves for menstruating people isn’t just about allowing or disallowing people relief to them. It is also about creating a culture where everyone acknowledges and accepts menstruation. On the larger perspective, this translates into access to menstruation products, awareness around the issue, and state-led menstrual policies in all spheres.
What are the risks associated with menstrual leave policies?
There are multiple challenges with creating and instituting menstrual leave policies for the workforce. This includes generational barriers, patriarchal norms, and an in-built culture of apathy among the workers.
Many people are worried about women misusing their menstrual leave policies. Others worry that such policies could be counterproductive, making women less likely to be hired by companies due to the additional economic costs of paid menstrual leaves.
While there might be challenges and negative beliefs regarding menstrual leave policies, it is important to understand that the positives far outweigh the negatives. While paid menstrual leave is not the final glass ceiling that needs to be shattered in order to create inclusive workplaces, it is undoubtedly an important one.
Spain’s paid menstrual leave decision is the right step ahead for recognizing and addressing the needs of working women. This can prove to be a starting point for many more important conversations regarding policies around women’s health and representation in other sectors.
Apart from menstrual policies, there is much more we can do to protect women’s mental and physical well-being in workplaces. To read more about these steps, click here.
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