Paid Menstrual Leave

Paid Menstrual Leave

Let’s face it, having a period can be difficult… like, really difficult. People who experience PMDD, endometriosis, menorrhagia (heavy menstrual bleeding), and dysmenorrhea (cramping), along with many other conditions, are no strangers to the debilitating symptoms that menstruation can bring. So, should this qualify for additional leave from work? 

Menstrual leave policy allows workers to take time off for symptoms related to menstruation. Menstrual leave may be an added perk in an employer’s benefits package, but it is actually a requirement in some countries such as Spain and Japan. Why is it offered in the first place, and is it beneficial?

Menstrual cramps, or dysmenorrhea, impact up to 80% of people who menstruate, with 5-10% stating their cramping is so severe that it disrupts their lives. 10-20% of Americans experience significantly heavy menstrual bleeding, known as menorrhagia, which can necessitate running to the bathroom to change tampons or pads multiple times an hour. PMDD, a severe form of PMS, affects 3-8% of the menstruating population, and can significantly impair a sufferer’s mood or ability to function. Endometriosis affects 5-10% of those who menstruate and can cause severe, debilitating pain. It’s clear how these symptoms can impact one’s ability to work, just as being sick can. 

Menstruation can be unbearable for a significant percentage of the workforce. People who suffer period symptoms that interfere with their lives are still just as likely as the rest of their colleagues to get sick, so proponents of menstrual leave state that it should be offered in addition to standard sick leave, so people who experience severe menstrual symptoms aren’t required to use up sick days that they may need when period pain renders them unable to work. Proponents of menstrual leave also state that it can reduce stigmas around menstruation by encouraging candid conversations about menstruation and recognizing the way it impacts those who experience it. 

This sounds like a no-brainer, right? However, there are some valid points to be made against requiring menstrual leave. For one, opponents of menstrual leave state that it can contribute to gender-based discrimination in the workplace. Opponents have also voiced concerns that it could paradoxically lead to further stigma around menstruation by suggesting that those who menstruate are unable to work while on their period. 

Clearly, this is a very nuanced conversation. While there are obvious reasons to advocate for paid menstrual leave, there are also some potential downsides to consider. Menstrual leave can be incredibly beneficial to those whose periods interfere with their quality of life. But could requiring menstrual leave turn back the dial on period progress? In many countries, the jury is still out on whether or not paid menstrual leave is a viable option for employees. However, having converations about paid menstrual leave is a great first step in the progression of introducing the policy to the workforce. 


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