Period leave—increased work flexibility around the time of menstruation—sounds like a radical notion, doesn't it? Women across industries have been able to work around the month for decades, so why should they get special treatment now?
Perhaps because, in a work world that was previously dominated by men, we are still breaking through barriers that hold women back, because we haven't fully acknowledged our differences. If we could optimize the workplace so we can all contribute our best, it makes sense that we could build more empowered workforces, and stronger companies as a result, doesn't it?
The Independent recently wrote a fascinating piece on paid menstrual leave, which noted that Nike had already integrated a menstrual leave policy back in 2007.
As Bex Baxter, a director at UK company Coexist, told The Independent, "This is not about employees taking more time off but working more flexibly and efficiently around their menstrual cycle and encouraging a work-life balance."
It's clear that a policy like this would raise a lot of eyebrows, and perhaps even rouse concern or anger from members of both genders. It's something that could lend itself to critiques of gender favouristism, or discrimination.
It also opens the question of policy abuse—does period leave make it easier for women to get out of work when they're just not feeling it? Not necessarily. If a woman doesn't get debilitating cramps, or menstrual migraines, or doesn't menstruate at all for that matter, it would be just as unethical for her to take advantage of period leave as someone who uses sick leave when they're actually feeling pretty darn great. And that's always been a possibility. We generally trust people when they call in sick, so why would this be any different?
While every company will have its own stance on menstrual leave, the topic surfaces interesting questions around health and wellness as it pertains to the future of work. If we instate period leave, we must also consider other circumstances in which any gender can take time off to look after their physical or mental needs. The period conversation just opens that door.
Over to you
What are your thoughts on period policies—whether that's increased flexibility around the time of menstruation, or fully paid time off? We'd love to hear your comments below, or email them to firstname.lastname@example.org. Let's start this dialogue.