Period leave as a tool for equality at work?

period leave

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Period leave as a tool for equality at work? And yet, yes!

If you could take time off when you’re in pain because of your period, wouldn’t you? Clearly yes and it seems that some local administrations in Spain have taken the initiative by offering period leave to their employees in order to achieve a better balance between work demands and difficulties faced by women during their period. However, there are voices that express their concerns about the wider establishment of the free period as an “obstacle” to tackling gender inequalities for fear that women will be seen as weaker and less productive than men.

While the experience of a period is different from woman to woman and certainly varies from month to month for a single woman, period leave is believed to be a means to legitimize the physical burden of a painful monthly cycle, to be taken if required. A means of creating equality in the workplace. It is also cited as a way of normalizing discussions around the “stigma” of menstruation.

Spain’s Girona: First city in the world to introduce seasonal leave

14% of women worldwide have taken time off from school or work because of their period. Girona is also starting to follow the same steps. The Catalan city offers flexibility in relation to working hours to any female worker who experiences period pain.

So, this year the Catalan city of Girona became the first in the country to consider flexible working arrangements for any female worker experiencing period discomfort. In June it announced a deal with its more than 1,300 municipal workers to allow women to take up to eight hours of menstrual leave a month, with the caveat that if the leave is used, the time must be made up within three months.

The problem with period leave

For a long time, many parts of Asia have established this policy regarding difficult days of the month for women. The reason, however, is the concern that the demands in the workplace could stand in the way of women’s ability to have children, not that it can facilitate their daily lives. In 2016, the Guardian spoke to women in China and Japan, but they said they did not want to use their period leave rights, fearing that doing so could create competition with their male colleagues or significantly reduce their chances for promotion.

That same year, Coexist, a Bristol business, said it would become one of the first workplaces in the western world to accept period leave, hoping to end an office culture that forced female employees to choose whether to work in severe pain period or will use sick leave or days from their normal leave. The decision sparked a global debate about the merits of the policy, even as Coexist managers reported increased engagement and reduced productivity

Not establishing a free period heightens the chronic stigma even among women about a perfectly normal process. Therefore, the first argument that women’s empowerment at work is “weakened” because of the leave is rejected. Second, the possibility of taking period leave (we emphasize in addition to the normal annual leave of women) does not reduce productivity. On the contrary, it increases it because although a woman may miss an average of 1-2 days a month due to menstruation, however, since she makes up for this time in the following days having recovered her strength, it makes the female worker stronger and confident in her abilities and that she is respected in her work environment. Result? Thoughts about negative effects of paid work leave due to dysmenorrhea do not exist. In this case the employer doesn’t lose either as the women return to the office energetically and become more productive, pain-free.

period leave
Period leave

The change in the philosophy of the bosses

It is more than obvious that any employer who tries to make your everyday life at work easier, has your respect. This always leads to more engaged employees. The results of the surveys speak for themselves. The point is to arrive at the establishment of a policy where period leave will be mandatory for employers, but at the same time the philosophy of the companies will be such that it will not be seen as a “thorn”, a weakness of the women who work in them, or an opportunity for the men employees to climb on the backs of their colleagues. We need a more flexible schedule that matches how we are biologically made. Not doing us a “favor” by pretending that periods make us weaker or less capable.

The role of Rise Club

The Non-Profit Organization Rise Club, embracing the values ​​of equal treatment of women at work and having been present in Greek society for more than two years now, tries with the development of various actions to bring unemployed mothers back to work. The main goal of the organization, in addition to empowering these women, is to contact and connect them with companies that they respect diversity and above all they respect the skills of mothers who are usually both more vulnerable and an “easy target” in terms of labor inequality. So for us, it’s not just about finding work for mothers, but about ensuring their equal return to the market by working with companies that promote new work trends in favor of women, such as period leave.

Dimitra Tzia, Rise Club columnist

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