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Importance Of Menstruation Policy At Workplace
Menstruation policy at workplace supports women employees in their ability to adequately self-care during their period
Photo Credit : iStock
Menstrual leave is one of the most controversial issues around the world. It is a type of holiday where women can choose to take time off and stay home during their menstrual period.
In the corporate world, companies such as Zomato, Mathrubhumi (a Malayalam news channel) and Wet and Dry (a New Delhi-based organisation) have implemented menstrual leave policies within their organisations. Several other companies have introduced telecommuting for their employees. Still, on a majority basis, there have been no menstrual policies for women employees at several workplaces.
BW Wellbeing had an interaction with Aditi Mittal, Group Head-HR, SAVE Solutions regarding how menstruation policies are important in the organisations. Excerpts;
Why is it essential for a progressive workplace to have a menstruation policy in place?
In the past, there was a huge lack of awareness, understanding, and empathy towards the physical differences among genders, which is why most organisations did not have any policies that catered to the specific needs of women, and so women shied away from participating in the workforce in large numbers.
Over the years, the increase in awareness and education around women’s issues has led to more discourse around the needs of working women, thus recognizing a need for change in workplace policies. In the 1990s, as the women workers of Bihar demanded a menstruation leave policy, the state government implemented the same as Special Casual Leave. This opened a path for more discussion around the policy and with the introduction of the ‘Menstruation Benefit Bill’ in 2018, the Indian government and many companies started taking the issue more seriously.
Having originated in Bihar, SAVE Solutions too took the initiative of implementing this policy in 2022 in our company, Pan India, with a sense of priority. The introduction of a Menstrual Leave Policy ensures that diversity and inclusion are truly materialised in the workplace. An Equitable workspace creates an Equal workspace. Equitable policies like the menstrual leave policy ensure that the workplace is more attentive towards the varied needs of the employees.
We understand the differences and the needs of our women employees and thus we have taken the initiative of offering 12 annual paid leaves to the female employees, with a no questions asked policy. Creating policies that understand the actual practical needs of the employees can truly help in creating a healthy work-life balance. Employee-centric policies such as the Menstrual Leave Policy can lead the way in making safe working spaces for female employees.
What kind of menstruation policies can be taken?
The implementation of a period left in the workplace not only addresses the issue of pain and discomfort for menstruators but also enables to break of the taboo on the conversations around periods. A direct need for policies around individual health has now become a priority and a lot of organisations are adopting and implementing menstruation policies.
At SAVE we offer up to 12 days of paid menstrual leaves, with the option of 1 leave per month along with sanitary napkins for use as per need for the female employees. Organisations can offer 1 -2 leaves per month to their women employees depending on the decision of their management, and these leaves should be paid in nature.
Employers can also allow women employees the flexibility to work from home instead of taking offs when they are menstruating if a leave policy is difficult to implement. Other alternatives include giving the employees a choice to move to a more comfortable part of the office or providing them with a comfortable corner in the office.
How is an organisation and work productivity affected due to no menstrual policies?
The absence of a menstrual leave policy in the workplace means that a fair share of the employees, i.e. the females, are not given the necessary benefits to ensure that they have a good working environment and experience. These policies also help in acknowledging women’s health as an important issue, not just for individuals but for organisations as a whole.
Many women face various issues such as severe pain, excessive bleeding and so on. When one does not feel physically comfortable it is likely to divert their focus and may hinder them from performing to the best of their capabilities. A well-rested employee means a more focused employee which in turn means more productivity.
Is managing menstruation in the workplace an overlooked issue in the low-and middle-income countries?
Menstrual management can be considered an overlooked issue in these countries, but it is important to understand the reasons. The reason why menstrual policies and menstrual management is an overlooked issue in workplaces in low and middle-income countries is that one, there is a great deal of taboo associated with menstruation in these countries, which makes it difficult for individuals to initiate a conversation around the same; and second, these countries usually have limited access to sanitation and hygiene, which restricts proper facilitation and menstrual management.
Moreover, many of these countries, including India are still trying to gather more women in the workforce. An absence of equal representation in the workplace means that the policies will be less equitable. Organisations can only address the issue of menstrual management at the workplace, once they can address the issue of gender ratio in their workforce.
Why are menstrual leaves still not worked upon by most workplaces in India?
A workplace’s culture can only be considered truly inclusive if it takes into consideration the needs of its diverse workforce. Creating policies that understand the actual practical needs of the employees can go a long way, in creating a healthy work-life balance.
Menstrual leave policies have existed across the globe in countries like Japan, Taiwan, Mexico, China, South Korea, etc. for more than 50 years now. Even some companies in India and UK also have implemented menstruation leave policies in the system. In the past few decades, the government and various civil society organisations have put in several efforts to raise awareness regarding periods but due to its taboo nature in society, menstrual hygiene continues to be one of the most neglected issues that Indian women face.
Most organisations are still trying to create workplaces that are at least inclusive at the most basic level, where women are given equal working opportunities at the workplace. Until and unless this issue is addressed properly, the menstrual leave policy will take time to get streamlined as a norm in the industry. Moreover, the hesitation to talk about menstruation in the workplace also becomes a great barrier in the policy-making process. More and more companies need to create sensitisation in their workplace to be able to address such issues more proactively. This can be achieved if the management of the organisations is sensitive towards this issue and understand the imperativeness of the same.
Will a policy to grant paid leave for period cramps create a stir in the corporate sector?
It is going to create a stir, but as more and more organisations start to accept the need for this policy, it will revolutionise the industry and make it a norm. We foresee a time when this will be a criterion for female candidates while they decide which organisation they want to work with. Creating and providing a healthy and comfortable working place is every employer’s duty. This will only result in happy employees with great productivity. Moreover, it will encourage more women to take up jobs without being hampered by a natural life process.
In 2018, the Indian government drafted the Menstruation Benefits Bill in which, proper rest time/facility should be provided to women employees at work, and 2 days of mandatory leaves are also to be granted. The bill is still pending to be passed. Why do you think there's so much delay? Should it be passed as soon as possible?
The fact is that as a society we still a have long way to go in terms of gender sensitisation and menstrual awareness, which is why there seems to be a lot of reluctance towards the policy. Many people believe that creating a special leave for menstruators is contradictory to the goal of achieving equality, which we don’t agree with.
Equity is the true means for achieving equality. Pretending like physical, social or economic differences do not exist is not the solution. Recognising the diverse needs of the workforce to achieve the same output and providing the right opportunity and resources is what will ensure equality in the workplace. If that means offering menstrual leave to the woman employees, then by all means this should be implemented. It will still take some time for us as a society to recognise the need for these policies and to even begin to openly talk about these things in the workplace. Sooner or later there will be more acceptance.
As per you, how do most of the people in India view periods?
Periods are still seen as a subject of taboo in many parts of the country. The subject is dealt with a lot of silence and often there is a great lack of awareness on the same. While education in itself is the key to changing the mindset regarding the same, inculcation of policies that cater to the menstrual needs of female employees can also create gateways for open communication on the subject. The more we talk about it, the more awareness and sensitisation will be created. Workplaces can play a huge role in becoming torchbearers beginning this conversation in the public domain.