Op-Ed

Companies’ period leaves excuses employers from fostering workplace inclusivity

For as far as history goes back, once a month like clock work, women have gotten their periods. This fact  shouldn’t be alarming to any educated adult, yet it’s a topic that’s constantly avoided due to the social stigma placed upon it. In many scenarios in the workplace, women must suppress  their concerns about an integral biological function they deal with monthly, simply because they feel it’s socially unacceptable or embarrassing to voice them.

But when women face  discomfort or pain at work, should companies give them time off—with no assurance that the manager will still act fairly towards them—or ensure that management is sensitive to women’s issues when allowing time off?

Some companies like Coexist, a company from the United Kingdom, and Nike have implemented period leave policies that would allow female employees to take time off when suffering from menstrual pain.

While these policies might be well-intentioned, they may also create more problems for women in the workplace by focusing on what separates women and men. A period leave undermines a woman’s ability to be seen as an effective part of the office, gives an excuse for sexist managers to not hire women. Women have fought for equality in the workplace for so long, and in this situation a paid period leave could hinder the career growth of women.

Instead of dismissing it altogether or implementing misguided policies, companies should require managers to take in-house training on women’s issues in the workplace, which would open up discourse about this uncomfortable dynamic women can face when they’re on their period at work.

This type of training would make managers aware of the variety of side effects (including cramps, nausea and vomiting) that can affect women, which will likely make them more accepting of the idea that women might take a sick day for their period. We don’t necessarily need policy changes around time-off, but women definitely need the stigma removed.

While this type of approach might require a larger time investment than imposing a new time-off rule on managers in a company, it’s desperately needed. By creating discourse on a topic that managers might be uncomfortable with, companies can slowly break down the stigma surrounding women’s issues. And when that happens, the benefits for women in the workplace won’t end with taking a sick day for your period cramps.

As much as every women would want to humbly accept such a just policy that recognizes the hindrances that can come from a natural occurrence in the female body, let’s say “no thank you.” Instead, we should build a workforce that focuses on the equality of men and women and the brilliance that women can bring to the workforce. Instead, let’s take the time to talk about why such a policy was needed in the first place.