WHAT IS PERIOD LEAVE?
Period leave is just that – leave from work to deal with any pain or discomfort associated with your period. It would be a paid absence similar to sick leave, only specific to issues surrounding menstruation.
DO WE REALLY NEED IT?
Studies reveal that 75% of young women and between 25-50% of adult women suffer at least some pain while having their periods. Further research concluded that 26% of schoolgirls had missed school due to this pain and four out of ten women reported being unable to concentrate on their work and consequently feeling that their career had been negatively affected by it. In that respect, period pain can be a very real and very debilitating condition that affects a large percentage of the female workforce. For those who suffer from additional conditions such as pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) or endometriosis, the effects can be even more severe. So yes, having some sort of legislation could give this section of the workforce some protection and reassurance when it comes to taking time off work due to their periods.
IS IT A NEW IDEA?
Although there is currently no fixed employment law within Australia that directly relates to period leave, the concept is not a new one and has been existent in other countries (such as Japan and South Korea) for almost seventy years. Currently Nike is one of the only major, multi-national companies that actively rolls out this policy and has been doing so since 2007.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS?
Along with protecting their staff, advocates of period leave may argue that this is an empowering move for women in that it goes some way to breaking the stigma relating to menstruation and brings it out in the open where it can be openly discussed and dealt with. In this way a woman won't feel pressured into coming into work or hiding her pain because she feels embarrassed. After all, menstruation is a natural bodily function and women shouldn't feel ashamed about the practicalities of dealing with it. It could also be seen as a way of boosting morale and productivity within the workplace. Period pain is best known for causing congestive pain and cramping but it can also exacerbate IBS, cause headaches, tiredness and low mood. If a woman is granted time off to recover from all of these ailments in peace then she will probably return to work feeling fresh, motivated and more inspired than if she'd been forced to struggle through it.
HOW COULD IT CAUSE PRACTICAL PROBLEMS ASSOCIATED WITH IT?
There is no 'one size fits all' approach when it comes to menstruation. While some women suffer terribly, others sail through it with no problems. In this way, period leave may lend itself to being abused and may also incite bad feeling within men (or women who don't menstruate) within the same workforce who could argue that special treatment is being granted in the form of period leave. It's arguable whether a high percentage of women would even use the policy if it were put in place on a wider scale. Would they feel comfortable broadcasting to their colleagues that they were on their period? Would they want to knowingly take time off for this reason, especially if they work in a primarily male dominated office? Would they fear that it made them look biologically less capable? This is the fear of people who don't agree with the policy because ultimately it sets women back, socially and professionally, to a time when they were seen to be the weaker sex because of their biology. Although it is accepted that there might be occasions where a woman's period was painful enough to warrant time off work, those who disagree with the concept may argue that sick leave is a more appropriate method of doing so because it doesn't bring gender based politics into the equation quite so much.
Post written by Anne Farthing (April 2016)
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