It’s not yet a law, but if the bill gets approved in the parliament, Italy will be the first western nation to give paid “menstrual leaves” to women who experience painful periods. If implemented, companies in Italy will be lawfully bound to grant 3 days of paid leave every month to women employees who experience painful periods. While the decision is generally looked upon as a positive step to help working women who suffer from pain and cramps, some believe it might backfire and make it difficult for women to be a part of today’s competitive workforce.
Menstrual leave is not a new concept. The practice exists in many countries like Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan. In March 2016, a Bristol-based company introduced menstrual leave policy for all female employees.
Shouldn’t women with severely painful periods and complicated issues like endometriosis be allowed time off work? Absolutely! But why can’t that be normal sick leaves? Moreover, why should all women, regardless of pain or cramps, get 3 paid sick leaves? It just takes back women to the time they stayed away from public eye during “that time of the month”. The fight to break age-old taboos related to menstruation still continues. Menstrual leave will reinforce old stereotypes and further stigmatize the issue of menstruation.
Menstruation doesn’t make a woman less competent. So the special leave entitlement creates catch-22 situation. It could help deal with painful periods, but the policy might become another excuse not to hire women. The decision will overturn gender equality, the reason why claiming menstrual leave can be a bad idea. Employers will become more focused on hiring men than women, in order to reduce costs. This is one among the major downsides of the policy. Here is another reason why those extra days of paid leave might do more harm than good – Menstrual leaves will easily draw the attention of antagonized male colleagues and might increase the likeliness of sexual harassments.
Given the fact that women have come way far without this advantage, menstrual leave is a totally retrograde idea. Many dread the possible dis-incentivizing that the law might result is in. It might also result in widespread negative stereotyping that women are emotional and indisposed during periods. Furthermore, menstrual leaves should not be connected with maternity leaves. Paid maternity leaves are a necessity. Giving birth and nurturing a child is more arduous than cramps and pain during periods. Hence, maternity leave is a basic human right.
Period is not an ailment, and not everyone suffers excruciating pain. Many women have scaled corporate hierarchies and broken several barriers even without maternity leaves. Hence, asking for periods leave or choosing to have it is equivalent to speeding backwards. The point is that none of us want to be treated as weak and hormonally-addled. Most of us can handle menstrual cramps, and doesn’t need a handout to deal with the physical and mental discomforts of menses. For those whom its debilitating and needs medical attention, sick leaves are always available to avail.