Period Leave: The New Global Debate

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Period Leave: The New Global Debate

Period leave or menstrual leave is a type of leave where a woman may have the option to take paid or unpaid leave from her employment if she is menstruating and is not able to go to work because of this. According to a study, out of the 40% of women who are part of the labor force 20% experience a condition called dysmenorrheal; that causes pain during menstruation.

The origins of period leave

It is said that a girl’s school in Kerala, gave its students menstrual leave as early as 1912. Japan was the first country to introduce period leave in the 1920s and it became a law in 1947. Nike, the multinational company included menstrual leave in 2007. There are some countries that have a national policy but in others it’s not even discussed; this has led to a global debate on the topic.

Is there a need for period leave?

According to a study conducted in 2017 by Maya -women’s fertility and health tracker; almost 68% of Indian women have severe period related symptoms such as cramps, weakness, fatigue and bloating.

For such women, period leave can be a boon. In fact menstrual leave shouldn’t be a privilege available to women in the cities engaged in white-collar jobs but it is important that women from rural areas, low-income households also have access to it.

What do women want?

Indian Women in Hospitality (IWH) conducted a discussion with the ladies from the hospitality industry to know about their views on this topic of global importance. Here are the highlights of the discussion:

  • Some ladies felt that it was a very good move whereas others were of the opinion that such leaves should not be encouraged. Why should women get extra leaves when they get the same salary (though it might not be true!)? Emphasising on the fact that that not all women face difficult monthly cycles.
  • Some think that though it is a welcome move, it should be kept optional. Tagging it as a period leave makes it seem like- where women demand equality on one hand, are given privileges on the other. With similar salary or stature there should be something for both the genders. Majority of the bosses empathise with their coworkers and one can always take a regular leave if required. It’s good that now it’s getting validated too.
  • Another lady on the forum said that the women employees can be given a cumulative leave of 12-15 days in a year allowing them to choose how they avail them. Some don’t take any leaves whereas there are also a few who can’t work during those days.
  • Some women may take advantage of the option available to them. There should be fixed leaves for all employees, otherwise this can become a huge problem for women employment in the future. It may become more of a liability for employers. It should be the same number of leaves for all genders and let them decide how they want to take them.
  • Some were of the opinion that it was it is a progressive thought as it’s very important for women to take care of their bodies to be in- balance; serving long term benefits.
  • We have to understand that men and women have different bodies and functions so there is no harm in considering this leave for women employees. The option of 1 day leave per month can be considered. In case it is not availed, it shouldn’t be carried forward or en-cashed to make it a fair deal.
  • Another participant in the discussion added that though we need rest during periods it is important to look at it from a different perspective. If periods were that painful and made one so uncomfortable that leave had to be taken every month then lifestyle changes were necessary. One can always seek help from a gynecologist. (Though it is easier said than done).
  • To this we had a quick response from another lady who shared a situation, “What about homemakers they don’t get any leave and what about the maids? I think we are further discriminating – we should rather talk about better hygiene, toilets, making sanitary pads affordable etc. We already have leaves which can be used; at my work place if I am feeling a lot of discomfort I am allowed to go home or take rest in the locker room and full days attendance is given so why take leave? In places where these facilities are not there just take regular leave”.
  • Getting support from another lady who said that Period Leave as ‘unofficial’ leave was always there in the system; making it an official leave will create difficulties in achieving the required man-hours for any industry. If 4 to 5 woman take leaves on the same days work will surely suffer. Discrimination and equal opportunity quotient will become more challenging.
  • It can be misused but if we keep talking about it, then we won’t be able to implement any new initiatives. Instead of period leaves companies can give short breaks within working hours in order to rest for a while.
  • A lady added, ”Instead of making it the problem; find a way around it. We talk about gender equality but I think it’s changing the mindset entirely. What’s the point in taking leave and sitting at home cooking and cleaning? Moreover I wouldn’t want my male colleagues to know it’s ‘that time’ of the month, it’s none of anyone’s business to know my bodily functions. It is damn painful but we know how to handle it”.
  • She found support in the points raised by another lady who was a part of the discussion, “Having a leave does not really make a difference to me personally although there have been days where I could barely stand up. I rather have people in the organisation take my work seriously and respect my opinions. Many organizations still feel providing a sanitary napkin at work is an overkill or unnecessary expenditure. Maybe work from home option can work, that way there won’t be any misuse or loss of man hours (woman hours)”·

Taking everyone’s point of view into consideration, we found the voice that women in hospitality were raising and points that they were driving home, which our industry can look at.

It should be an option for a particularly difficult period. There are some ladies who can’t eat, sleep and are in excruciating pain every month; they need it. Thus it should be need based. Let’s be mature in looking at the larger picture. We must look at where this debate reaches on the world stage and what comes out of it for different sectors.

PS: Pictures are taken from google with due credits

Dr. Laxmi Todiwan
Dr. Laxmi Todiwan
Founder Indian Women in Hospitality. She is a Professor, Corporate Trainer, Motivational Speaker and a Blogger. A multiple award winning hospitality professional with a career spanning over two decades; people engagement, training and development are close to her heart. She writes for hospitality journals, online platforms and columns in the local newspapers. Married to a Master Mariner she loves to write on the maritime industry as well as the lives and relationships of the fraternity. She expresses her thoughts on her blog and website,

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