The concept of ‘period leave’ has become a much-talked about
issue among Indian companies which are known to change with the time and adopt international
best practices at workplaces. While menstruation
still remains a huge taboo in India, the issue of period leaves for women
employees has gained traction in India Inc.
A new round of debate started when a well-known
food aggregator announced up to 10 days of period leave in a year for its
female and transgender employees in an effort to break the stigma attached
to menstruation. So, has
the time come for Indian companies to formulate a leave policy around periods as
part of HR rules for women employees?
Opinions differ, while some think such a policy will be seen
as supportive that will empower women and
make them more productive, others think it may portray them in weak light and
even perpetuate the notion that females should not work when they have their
“Menstruation is a natural process but
a taboo to be spoken about with millions of women facing discrimination.
Over the last few years, companies have finally started breaking the silence
around menstruation. Policies on period leaves are nothing uncommon in Japan,
Taiwan, China, Italy and several other nations and why should they
be?” says Dr Somdutta Singh, entrepreneur and CEO & Founder
Assiduus, a product and solution firm.
“Policies such as these are supportive,
considerate and in the long run empower women and make them more
productive,” she says.
Another corporate executive Nazneen Shaikh,
Communications Manager at H-Energy Group of Companies, however, says
introducing a concept like menstrual leave may result in one more barrier for
“A step to give additional leave may
rehammer the belief that women are weak and incapable of managing work during
the leave period. If a woman employee is unwell due to menstruation, she may
take sick leave. However, what is more important is to ensure that dignity of
employees is maintained and organisations and reporting manager accept period
pain as a valid reason to grant leave,” says Shaikh.
Prakriti Poddar, an expert in mental health and
MD at Poddar Foundation, is not enthused about such a leave policy and cites
studies suggesting that becoming more active actually lessens ‘period pain’.
“I think one can let this go, because
according to me, there are many days of leave that are given and I don’t think
that a day of even three days of ‘period’ leave need to be given. Plus, it
perpetuates the notion that women should not work when they have their
period,” says Poddar.
Singh of Assiduss says such a progressive step
will encourage more women to join workforce.
“Let’s not look at it as a policy. It’s
a gesture towards working women. And whilst we can talk
about women issues and empowerment, why can’t we come up with policies
which are aligned to such content?” says Singh. She says any such move by
companies will aid career advancement of women.
“In today’s day and age when we have the
freedom to work from anywhere we want to, why should such a progressive policy
hinder advancement? On the contrary, it will encourage and push more women to
start and build their careers,” Singh says.
It all seems to fall on a basic understanding on the biological differences between a man and a woman, and the sensitivities which were overlooked in the rush to declare gender equality as the ultimate saviour. It is quite clear from polarised arguments that gender sensitivity should be criteria of engagement between the sexes, and if taken into consideration with a pinch of fairness and justice to provide equal opportunity, these sensitivities will go a long way in governmental and social aspects of handling these differences with peaceful, and productive outcome.
By: Murtuza Merchant