Period Leave! Have you heard of this and should women be entitled to it?

Updated: Feb 5

Period leave is something that I have never heard of but I was shocked to discover that Japan has had a period leave entitlement for women for more than 70 years, in addition to South Korea since 1953. It is not actually common for women to utilise this leave as it means revealing to often male bosses that one is menstruating when it is often seen to be a taboo subject.

A survey in 2017 found that only 0.9% of female employees claimed period leave. Women don’t want to be seen as inferior to men as needing to take leave due to their period. In some countries women are not even allowed to cook or touch other people when they are menstruating as it is seen as dirty.

The BMJ published a study that reviewed 32,748 Dutch women, revealing 14% had taken time off work or school during their period, with 20% who called in sick giving the real reason. Approximately 68% said they wished they had the option of more flexible work or study options when on their period.

Sometimes policies that are put in place to help women actually harm them due to fear of discrimination. Women should be included when decisions are made on policies that affect them, their health and their working environment.

Up to 91% of women experience painful periods within their reproductive lifetime with up to 5% of women aged 30-49 having very heavy periods. Flooding is an extremely embarrassing thing for a women to encounter as the whole world knows you have a heavy period when the blood stains their outfit or chair they are sitting on.

We propose a policy where women are aware they are entitled to a more flexible working environment during their period, to accommodate for symptoms, so that they can still work in a productive manner. We also propose that their is an “allowance” within sick leave for period related problems, but that this should not have to be declared unless leave is above a threshold. In this case the appropriate place to discuss would be with their occupational health clinician and not their boss.

At Victorian Women’s Trust they have a policy where women can either choose a comfortable spot to work in the office, have permission to work from home or to take up to 12 paid days of menstrual leave each year during their period. The policy has not been abused by their 13 female workers as only 21 days was taken in total between all those women over a 4 year period.

Do you think period leave should become a thing in the west, or policies that incorporate a more flexible working environment for women who need adaptations during their period? It’s time women no longer have to suffer in silence, after all they are actively bleeding for up to a week, sometimes longer.

Have you had a work related period horror story? An accident at work or a boss who was unsympathetic to your sick leave request, drop your answers in the comments!

Don‘t forget to check out our Discovery package - More than a Healthcheck. With our 6 step wellness programme we are able to help people with various health issues, including heavy periods, to bring your unique health vision to life.

Dr Gabi


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