Menstrual leave.. should it be a thing?
Menstrual leave refers to any employment policy that gives people who endure menstruation (of reproductive age) the option to take unpaid or paid leave from work, if unable to show up because of menstrual cycle-related symptoms.
Many people who menstruate – including sufferers of conditions such as dysmenorrhea, endometriosis, and ovarian cysts – experience symptoms such as severe pain, headaches, mental and physical exhaustion, and an inability to concentrate, making it very hard for them to be productive – but they are still required to put in a full day at work. The only alternative would mean taking a sick day or using precious annual leave.
Potential benefits of menstrual leave
Menstrual leave has the potential to positively contribute to the well-being of menstruators in two key interrelated ways: by promoting menstrual health and by de-stigmatizing menstruation.
- Menstrual leave may benefit the health of individuals who menstruate, including those who experience mild, moderate, or severe discomfort from menstruation, and those who experience menstrual cycle-related illnesses such as dysmenorrhea, endometriosis, ovarian cysts, and mood disorders. For some, menstrual symptoms may interrupt their daily lives, making it more difficult to participate in normal activities. Menstrual leave may offer womxn the opportunity to speak up about their menstrual cycle-related health issues, and to take time to recover or seek treatment.
- Menstrual leave may aid individuals who identify as genderqueer/non-binary or as Trans men. If offered this type of leave, genderqueer/non-binary individuals and Trans men may feel an increased amount of safety because menstruation may be a time in which these individuals face increased amounts of transphobia and other types of gender discrimination. By having the option to use menstrual leave, trans men and individuals who identify as genderqueer/non-binary may be able to avoid having their menstrual status revealed (outed)
In order for menstrual leave policies to be fully beneficial to menstruators’ well-being, cultural beliefs about and attitudes toward menstruation must change. Menstrual stigma must be continuously challenged and hetero/ patriarchal beliefs dismantled. Menstrual leave policies will only advance gender equality if they are adopted in spaces committed to challenging menstrual stigma and dismantling gender-based oppression.
Opinions are my own and not the views of my employer. B.K