Why More Work Needs to Be Done On Menstrual Leave
The whispers, the murmurs, the gossip… we’ve all heard about it: menstrual leave. But what is menstrual leave? And is it even enough? Join us as we discuss whether ‘menstrual leave’ is a massive step forward or just another buzzword…
What is Menstrual Leave?
So, “menstrual leave”, it sounds like just the thing we need to normalise period pain & chronic conditions in the workplace. The freedom to be able to take time off during menstruation without it affecting your annual holiday or sick leave? Sounds perfect, right? However, we need to dig a little deeper; menstrual health has long been stigmatised, trivialised, under researched, underfunded & under regulated. Pain & illness associated with menstruation is consistently swept under the rug because of society’s belief that period blood is “disgusting”. News alert: it’s not.
At &SISTERS, we’re not only dedicated to making plastic-free & bleach-free period care accessible to all, we’re here to kick start the menstrual health revolution and blow the door open on these “taboo” subjects. Our bodies and their natural processes are not “taboo” or something to ignore.
A One Liner in Your HR Policy Isn’t Enough
We’re completely supportive of the ability to give employees specific time off for period-related suffering, however we also believe that simply adding a one liner permitting menstrual leave on the end of your sickness policy simply isn't enough.
Employers need to realise that people menstruate and it’s time they were okay with that. Periods & period-related issues are a genuine reason to take time off and businesses need to accept them within the standard parameters of sick leave & flexible working. These policies need to be readily available and be able to support anyone who suffers with chronic conditions. It’s important to not ostracise a specific issue many of us experience over our lifetime.
The Idea of ‘Admitting’ You’re on Your Period Can Be Daunting
There’s no doubt that societal factors play a huge part in us seeking help & advice, especially if we’re suffering from menstrual discomfort. Have you ever felt comfortable enough in the workplace to voice that you’re on your period? Many of us know the feeling of throbbing cramps & a full pad and needing to quietly excuse yourself with a replacement stuffed up your sleeve all too well.
Even though we believe there’s no shame in being on your period, publicly announcing it can be a daunting task for many. In fact, a huge number of us are probably guilty of telling their boss they have diarrhoea rather than experiencing menstrual pain. Whether it’s because they felt embarrassed for openly “admitting” to being on their period or not believing that period pain is a justified reason to request time off, workplaces need to change their attitudes towards menstrual & gynaecological conditions.
Will You Need to “Prove” You're Suffering?
Some are concerned that you may require a doctor’s note in order to “qualify” for time off. If you’ve ever experienced how difficult it is to even get an appointment with your GP, let alone a gynaecologist, this poses a huge barrier. Many know that their menstrual health is not taken as seriously as it should be, and even more fear being faced with discrimination, judgement or skeptisim when reporting chronic pain and period-related issues; sufferers of other common and debilitating gynaecological conditions such as PMDD, PCOS and endometriosis (to name a few) know first hand how long it can take to get a confirmed diagnosis.
Ever Felt Like You Have to ”Just Get On With It”?
Did you know that up to one third of people suffer dysmenorrhea during their period? Studies have shown that some people who experience severe period pain feel that they’re unable to complete their work to the best of their ability but also feel they cannot justify asking for time off. Due to social stigma surrounding periods, many sufferers feel like they just have to fight through the pain and have nowhere to turn. This is where something like “menstrual leave” could help; knowing that there is space & support to take time off work to manage their pain on their own terms.
Menstrual Leave Isn’t A New Concept
Yep, you heard that right. Japan has offered a form of ‘menstrual leave’ since 1947, however less than 10% of female workers regularly take part. A nationwide survey discovered that women felt reluctant to apply when they had a male superior or because so few of their peers actually took those days off. It’s clear that the fear of social stigma against menstruation can be felt across the world. A more nefarious possibility is discrimination in the job market, there’s potential for patriarchal leadership to not employ or promote those who could qualify for menstrual leave.
First things first: workplaces need to let their employees know that they truly respect the right to menstrual leave and build the right kind of company culture with better flexible working & sick leave policies designed for inclusivity & equality. Companies need to recognise the severity of periods for some people and encourage open & honest conversations between management & employees about their wellbeing.
Business owners can easily embrace the concept by providing the most basic of amenities such as easy access to healthy period care by providing free products in their office bathrooms and sanitary bins. If you’re interested in offering &SISTERS organic cotton period care to your employees please do get in touch with us.
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