Why is Menstrual Leave Up for Debate?

by | Jun 30, 2022 | Health & Wellbeing | 0 comments

 Menstrual leave has been a hot topic in the media recently.

Countless articles and posts have been shared online, particularly in relation to Spain announcing plans to introduce a new law for menstrual leave.

Naturally, a debate has occurred as to exactly if and why menstrual leave is necessary.

(Is it even a trending media topic if people aren’t arguing about it on LinkedIn?) 

Background context

For those who haven’t heard or read about Spain’s proposed plans, here’s the lowdown.

A draft bill says that women could have 3 days of leave a month (extended to 5 in some circumstances).

This sounds rather great, right?

Wellllll, this is where things become a little questionable.

This leave would be allowed only in cases of significantly painful periods…

Which is only allowed with a doctor’s note.

It’s almost as though it’s just another way to measure the validity of women’s pain and only allow them reprieve if a professional also deems their pain to be valid. 

Don’t get us wrong…

It’s great to see a country treating menstruation as a valid health condition.

Only a handful of countries have legislation in place targeting menstruation, so if Spain were to pass this legislation, it would be the first such legal entitlement in Europe.

However, there is an elephant in the room.

If the standard for menstruation legislation is set by Spain, it sets a precedent for assessing the pain each woman has when menstruating to determine if it is valid enough for menstrual leave (and if it can, in fact, result in a doctor’s note).

Those who suffer so-called ‘mild discomfort’ would not be included in these changes.

But what constitutes as mild, moderate, or severe? And who exactly gets to decide this for women?

 The issue

Put simply, it’s a slippery slope.

To allow someone time off for menstrual leave based on their pain and to deny this same option to another due to a perceived lack of it creates a significant imbalance.

It means that certain women are being told to put their heads down and carry on because their pain is only ‘mild’, whereas others are awarded with 3-5 days leave that is dependant on a doctor’s note.

Given that there is a significant imbalance when it comes to the way women’s health is approached, it’s no surprise why many women feel apprehensive about this.

As an example, the average time it takes for a woman to be diagnosed with endometriosis is around 7.5 years.

Around 58% of people visited their GP more than 10 times before diagnosis, and 53% went to A&E with symptoms before diagnosis.

Would it be wrong to assume that the gender health gap wouldn’t be at play with menstrual leave as well?

 How can menstrual leave be approached positively and effectively in the workplace?

The most common-sense place to start is to ask women in your workplace how you can make their lives easier when menstruating.

For example:

          Remote working

          Awareness raising in the workplace (e.g., educational days to discuss how menstruation may impact women in the workplace, and the importance of the approach, language, and education in the workplace)

          Provide free period products (e.g., tampons, pads, or even hot water bottles)

          Provide menstrual leave that is consistent and equal for all menstruating employees

These measures are reliant on having a workplace that has a good awareness of menstruation without stigma or judgement – this is why raising awareness is often the first step of any workplace initiative.

Most importantly, women in the workplace need to be valued and trusted in the workplace to know when they may need rest or support and when they feel able to work.

If a workplace prioritises output over its employees, no amount of support will be enough as employees won’t feel able to actually access it.

The notion that menstrual leave shouldn’t be given as it may potentially be abused is redundant, given that employees have sick leave and only a small percentage will abuse this right (and it is still seen as a necessity).

Having women work through the pain they are experiencing simply because of a concern that they won’t be productive if menstrual leave is offered is counterproductive – if women can have the time off when they are in pain, they are likely to suffer less stress and therefore use their time more effectively without fear of repercussions. 

Keep up with our Founder Danny Clarke on LinkedIn to see more discussions around topics such as women’s health, occupational health, and all of the (LinkedIn debate-starting) content in between.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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