Getting time off from work during your period, sounds pretty radical but is not a new idea and in some countries, it’s commonly used for decades. About 40% of all women who go through a period suffer from a lot of pain and other symptoms every month. Several studies have revealed that menstrual cramps ensure an average 9 days of lost productivity every year.
Period leave brings in inclusiveness by recognizing that biological differences exist in the workplace. Women have confessed that the policy is rather helpful as it acknowledges the fact that menstruation-related pain and related symptoms like migraines are real and removes performance pressure on those suffering from them. While interviewing fresh talent, positive feedback is received about the initiative.
Japan included period leave in its labour laws in 1947. Any woman with painful periods or performing work which aggravated period pain could take seirikyuuka – ‘physical leave’. Countries like Taiwan, the Philippines, Indonesia, have followed suit and Italy although only for women who deal with dysmenorrhea, a heavy pain in the pelvis or abdomen. Many organizations have followed in train including Zomato, the Indian food delivery app which introduced period leave in 2020, while Bitwala followed shortly thereafter by introducing 10 days paid period leave annually. If any organization intends to join the movement, here are some useful tips which could help launch the idea seamlessly and without hassles.
Do your basic research and share all data. Periods are treated as a taboo and by speaking openly about these, matters become normalised. Use various Slack channels and internal newsletters for knowledge sharing about the impact of periods on work life and the positive effect period leave has on employee productivity and well-being. This could help build better acceptance and understanding and on possible need for policy changes. Check out with the men at your organization also and assess if they are struggling with anything physical or mental. Working inclusively involves including all groups of employees.
Comfortable process implementation with senior leadership support
When the period leave concept was presented to senior management, two questions arose: ‘How do we ensure that women actually take leave, and how to manage this operationally?’ It is important to develop a streamlined process for availing period leave and employees should have the choice to submit period leave applications directly to supervisors, or via the HR team and an option to ask persons they are comfortable with. After top-level approval, identify sponsors to help introduce period leave ideas to mid-management and the entire organization, to remove any misconception that this is ‘another HR idea’. While top management was understanding and open-minded, the mid -management team could push back. Some male employees feel that men also deserve a ‘mental health day’. With sponsors of different genders, promotion and acceptance of period leave, is easier.
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If implementing any new benefit, a clear understanding of the proposed details, is important. Period leave should be transparent and accepted by all within the organisation, not only women employees. A three-step communication is recommended:
- Present the new benefits during a leadership offsite meet
- Discuss policy implications with employees with reasons and process for availing period leave
- The process is conveyed to all women employees in writing