Are period leaves important at work? 7 women answer

Health, according to the World Health Organization, is “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease and infirmity”.[1] A variety of definitions have been used for different purposes over time. Health can be promoted by encouraging healthful activities, such as regular physical exercise and adequate sleep,[2] and by reducing or avoiding unhealthful activities or situations, such as smoking or excessive stress. Some factors affecting health are due to individual choices, such as whether to engage in a high-risk behavior, while others are due to structural causes, such as whether the society is arranged in a way that makes it easier or harder for people to get necessary healthcare services. Still other factors are beyond both individual and group choices, such as genetic disorders.

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Excruciating pain and mood swings are a part of your menstrual cycle, but does that call for a set of period leaves every month? Women speak up!

It’s almost 2022, and we still live in a world where periods and menstruation are considered taboo. Women are advised by the ‘experienced ladies’ of the house to never let a man get a whiff of the fact that you have a vagina, and the monthly menstrual cramps it comes with, almost kills you! The void is often so deep, that both society and men crash when it comes to the ‘hush-hush’ period talk and the savage pain it comes with. Enter the debate on period leaves.

While Aunt Flo comes visiting you with a package of nausea, pain, headaches and cramps, women deal with periods differently. Some go through minor inconveniences while others just make it through with excruciating pain.

Sometimes, like an unwelcome relative, your periods often come unannounced on a Monday when you must force yourself to put on your pants, suit, skirt, dress or sari on, and get stuff done! Hence, the debate of whether women are entitled to period leaves resumes.

In the recent past, a few companies have embraced the idea of granting women the ‘first day of the period’ (FOP) leave, the debate for a mandatory period leave has caught fire. Recently, an Indian food delivery giant introduced a period leave policy for its women employees and that set tongues wagging about the often-neglected menstrual health and gender equality at work.

HealthShots asked 6 women about their period experiences and the much-debated question of whether women should be entitled to period leave or not.

Here’s what they say about it:

  1. Sonam Gianani, Advertising professional:

    “I started my professional journey 6 months back and in these 6 months, the hardest thing for me was to report to the office on the first day of my menstrual cycle. The first day of periods is painful to the extent that getting out of bed becomes a task for me. In my opinion, a ‘period leave’ is a must for a woman employee, as it’s not just the physical uneasiness and pain but the hormonal and mental toll one goes through.

  2. Nidhi Tripathi Application development associate:

    It’s not blues and hues for women dealing with period pain. I know of women who deal with agonizing cramps and pain. At that time, women employees have no option but to use up their reserve of sick leaves, when periods are not sickness but a natural but painful process for some. Extra period leaves should be given by the employers, and for the fairness of it all, the leaves can be exhausted or dissolved if not availed in the same month. But they sure should be provided.”

    Also Read: Wondering if you can exercise during periods? Mirabai Chanu is the inspiration you need

    period leaves
    Sometimes your period pain is so severe that it needs you to sit back and relax. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

  3. Shahba Khan, Teacher

    “Women have a difficult time each month. The intensity of pain may vary in some, but most women have to deal with a harrowing series of period cramps, mood swings, tiredness, and sleepless nights. I think introducing period leaves at work will be a great relief because I, as a teacher, need to have a healthy mind and body to be able to shape children’s future, educate them and resolve their problems.”

  4. Nisha Popli Public Relations professional:

    “I have been suffering from a painful period for the past few months. The first day is the worst. During periods, I undergo intense pain in my back, head, and thighs. To make it worse, I deal with major mood swings which affect my mental health. While menstrual issues are not equally bad for everybody, a period leave may be a good idea for women who go through a tough time when menstruating.”

  5. Palak Gogia, Analyst:

    “Women deal with more than pain and discomfort during periods. They have to worry about hygiene at the workplace and carry tampons and pads to work.  Personally, I deal with troublesome cramps during my periods. It is difficult to even work from home. Hence, the need for period leaves must be acknowledged by the organisations considering the issues faced by its women employees.”

    period leaves
    Periods can also come with menstrual migraine. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

  6. Honey Mehrotra: Teacher:

    “I have faced and still go through a lot of pain in my menstrual cycle. During periods, my lower abdomen hurts a lot and sometimes it becomes very difficult to stand for a long time and work . So, period leave is definitely required for the women who go through tremendous pain as it becomes unbearable for some of us.”

  7. Gurleen Sidhu:

“There’s no doubt that most women go through pain during periods and so do I, but I feel blessed as it’s not that severe or extreme. So, if I talk about my personal opinion, I don’t think I would be in need of leaves during my periods because it’s just like any other day. I do get cramps but they come and go. Although for some, a period leave is a necessity, and not luxury. If we are to achieve gender parity at work and in every other sphere, it is of utmost need to recognize this need and how it affects women.”

Also Read: Here are 4 completely natural and super-effective ways of dealing with period pain

The bottom line about period leaves

Research by USAID has shown that around 71 percent of girls in India are unaware of menstruation until they get their first period. This further establishes the fact that period talk remains a reticent topic in both personal and professional settings. Studies have revealed that periods limit women’s access to education and work opportunities. Thus, educating people about sensitive challenges at hand and introducing period leaves is welcomed by most women around the world.

While many men oppose the concept of period leaves calling them discriminatory, shots being fired at the other gender is expected. When speaking about period leave policy, a facetious argument mounts on how women may ‘fake it’ and misuse the leaves to avoid work. It is better to leave men with their self-perception of period pain. Maybe a ‘no vagina, no opinion’ policy on period should rule their sexist remarks out.

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