• UK offers ‘period’ leave, should India push for menstrual leave?

    Women in UK based organization will now be offered ‘period leaves’ to deal with the discomfort associated with the monthly cycle. Bex Baxter, one of the directors of the Bristol based company named Coexis – who also happens to be a woman – came up with the idea after observing her female employees going through all the trouble at work due to their periods. The move was welcomed by the employees of the company, which is comprised of 24 women and 7 men.

    Bex Baxter, the director of the company told Bristol UK:

    I have managed many female members of staff over the years and I have seen women at work who are bent over double because of the pain caused by their periods. Despite this, they feel they cannot go home because they do not class themselves as unwell. And this is unfair. If someone is in pain – no matter what kind – they are encouraged to go home.

    Bex Baxter at the CoExist office in UK

    Bex Baxter at the CoExist office in UK

    Nikhil Vinodh, a producer with a prominent media house in the country, shares his opinion:

    Though I agree to the fact that menstruation is a painful time, it is not something that women should be discriminated for. Not only does it decrease productivity, but it could also create a certain level of resentment amongst male peers. A little physical pain shouldn’t really affect the way she works.

    Period leave could affect productivity and create resentment amongst male peers, is a common belief. Dialogue with men important.

    Even feminists across the board are divided on the issue. While some feel that it is yet another way of keeping women out of the workplace, citing periods as a disabling feature of the female body, other believe that it is a way to give women the window to re-gain that mind and body balance that they lose when they are going through this hormonal turbulence that we call periods.

    For me personally, I do not feel menstrual cramps to the extent that I cannot move. But I do know many friends who do. The problem is that since it is a recurring cycle, we have normalized it over the years and we seem to overlook the trouble it causes to women. What we really need to normalize is the conversation around it, and leave it to the woman’s discretion to choose to be at rest or not.

    A policy that caters to women gives everyone a better workplace

    A policy that caters to women gives everyone a better workplace

    Bex Baxter says,”Women don’t want to feel they are less employable than men if they are taking time off for periods.” Organizations must build effective policies in that regard, since people working within these organizations come from a socio-cultural understanding that allows them to believe that periods are routine and must not be viewed as disabling.

    India has been making some great progress with gender and reproductive rights at the workplace. Read more here. 72% of the respondents of a Mirror UK survey said that they think period leave is a great idea that could enhance productivity, while 28% rejected the idea. Is India ready to take a stride in that direction? With the shame and ridicule that comes with women and periods, I think we have miles to survive before change comes our way.