Menstrual leave: Should those who menstruate get ‘First Day Period Leave’?

There’s an ongoing debate in many countries about whether or not companies should allow those who menstruate a ‘first day period leave.'

All those who menstruate know how unbearably painful the first day of a period can be. For some, it can reduce them to the confines of their bed for the whole day, for others it can include vomiting and cramps. Although it is known how disrupting the first day of a period can be, it is not considered a viable reason to miss work. Some companies in India sparked debates that are still ongoing to this day.

Menstrual leave

Culture Machine is a company in India, that since 2017, has introduced menstrual leave for its employees. Reema D’Souza, who works for the company as Assistant Manager HR told The Times of India:

A lot of employees do take it, and are not afraid to talk about it. To my knowledge, nobody has misused/taken advantage of it.

She added:

I think more companies should adopt this policy since it also helps reduce the taboo. We have also educated male managers about this leave and introduced an online system of self-approved leave so women are comfortable taking it.

In 2018, another company called Kalinganagar introduced menstrual leave and called it ‘rahat leave’. According to Yogita Bai, a Junior engineer, many of her female colleagues who have PCOD (Polycystic Ovarian Disease) use it often.

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Should those who menstruate get ‘First Day Period Leave’? Sydney Sims/Unsplash

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Many debates

Up until recently, menstrual leave was only granted in certain Asian countries, such as India and South Korea. However, in 2021, a company in Spain granted menstrual leave for its employees. Indeed the city of Girona is the first city in Spain to consider menstrual leave for those who need it.

This subject has sparked many debates, Bex Baxter a director of Coexist in the UK was mortified when she saw one of her members of staff ‘bent double, white as a sheet’ at her desk.

Baxter then considered allowing one day paid leave for menstrual cramps. This consideration met with a lot of backlash, including one comment that stuck in her mind:

You’re putting feminism back by 100 years by doing this.

Back in 2016, four Italian lawmakers put forward a proposal to offer up to three days of paid menstrual leave, which was denied in parliament. Many were relieved by this result as they thought it would make it more difficult for women to be hired as companies would be less inclined to as they would have to pay for extra leave.

Why do women menstruate? Why do women menstruate?