The Menstrual Leave Dilemma: Examining the Potential Consequences for Employers and Employees

Women throughout history have been pushing for equal pay, equal workplace opportunities, DEI, and leadership representation among others.

Although women have made remarkable progress in improving their position in society, especially in the workforce, there are still challenges that women face in their daily lives that are often disregarded or misinterpreted.

One of the challenges that women face is menstruation which occurs every month. Men and women have a different reproductive systems thus, there are instances where physical and emotional distress that women feel were undermined.

Some women experience extreme pain when bleeding, especially those with amenorrhea, dysmenorrhea, menorrhagia, and other menstrual disorders that could affect their quality of life and work.

Schoep et al. (2019) surveyed 32,748 Dutch women which revealed that 13.8% would report missing work during their menstrual cycle, with 3.4% reporting absenteeism nearly every cycle. Furthermore, 80.7% experienced reduced productivity, resulting in 23.2 days of lost productivity per year.

On this matter, menstrual leave has been a topic of debate for quite some time now on whether countries should mandate it. However, does implementing such a policy really the right move, or will it only exacerbate the gender gap in the workplace?

Last year, Spain has become the first European country to give paid menstrual leave to workers. This gives women the right to take three days of menstrual leave per month, with the possibility of extending it to five days if they suffer from severe menstrual cramps.

As per Euronews, the cost of menstrual leave will be borne by the Spanish social security system instead of the employers, and it will only be approved upon presentation of a medical certificate.

As of today, only a handful of countries have implemented menstrual leave policies, including Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Vietnam, and Zambia.

There are also companies who initiate this policy one example of this is Modibodi, an Australian underwear company launched in 2021. The company provides 10 days of paid leave each year for reasons including menstruation and menopause.

The policy has been welcomed by many women’s rights groups and advocates who have long been campaigning for better menstrual care and support for women in the workplace. They argue that menstrual leave is necessary as it can help women manage their symptoms and maintain their productivity at work.

However, critics of menstrual leave policies argue that employers may be hesitant to hire women or offer them higher positions due to concerns about potential absenteeism or decreased productivity. This could lead to a lack of opportunities for women in the workplace and perpetuate gender discrimination.

Recently, house bill 7758, also known as the “Menstrual Leave Act” was proposed in the Philippine Senate. The President of the Employer Confederation of the Philippines (ECOP), Sergio Ortiz-Luis Jr., has voiced his opposition to the bill, arguing, that the proposed menstrual leave could lead to a significant increase in leave credits, resulting in added expenses that micro and small businesses might find difficult to manage.

Such a situation could cause some companies to lay off workers or even shut down, and could also deter potential employers from making long-term investments.

On the other hand, Nadya Okamoto, the CEO of August shared in HR Brew report that employers can create a more period-friendly company culture by emphasizing flexibility and enabling employees to make decisions that benefit their bodies, rather than implementing period-specific leave. She also recommended using employee resource groups as a tool to help overcome the negative perception around menstruation.

The debate around menstrual leave highlights the ongoing challenges of promoting gender equality in the workplace, and the need to balance the needs of employees with the realities of running a business. As the conversation around menstrual leave continues to evolve, it will be important for all stakeholders to engage in open and constructive dialogue for our society to progress.

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