Grazia Debate: Should Menstrual Leave Become Company Policy?


by Katie Rosseinsky |
Published on

Should you get time off during ‘that time of the month’? According to one British company, the answer is a resounding ‘yes.’ Bristol-based charitable organisation Coexist has become the first ever UK business to introduce a ‘period policy,’ offering female employees the chance to take paid leave if they are suffering from menstrual cramps and period pain.

Director Bex Baxter said ‘As a manager of staff I have seen women really suffer with their periods and I have found them doubled over in a lot of pain. They feel guilty and ashamed for taking time off and often sit at their desks in silence not wanting to acknowledge it. It started from there, and we thought we had to see what we could do it about it and try to break the last great taboo.’

But do women really need menstrual leave? Let’s find out…


Grazia writer Katie Rosseinsky says...

While I don’t agree with everything in Coexist’s statement about its new ‘period policy’ (describing menstruation as the body in ‘winter state’ feels a little wishy-washy, not to mention a bit medieval), director Bex Baxter’s point that menstruation still feels like ‘the last great taboo’ rings very true indeed.

It’s 2016, yet the way we talk (or rather, don’t talk) about periods still feels like a hangover from Victorian times, when menstruation was seen as a dangerous pathology, linked to women’s so-called hysterical tendencies.

According to the NHS, studies have suggested that around 90 % of women experience some level of pain and discomfort during their period, with another study reporting that up to 14% of the women surveyed were frequently unable to go to work because of period pain.

Despite this, we’re still encouraged to downplay just how draining, messy and sometimes pretty unbearable menstruation can be – whether that’s because we’ve been conditioned to see periods as gross and unspeakable (cheers, Victorians!) or because we feel that admitting to being at the mercy of our hormones is somehow letting the side down. For an irritatingly prevalent case in point, see every tampon ad starring an unfeasibly smiley girl gang in white shorts, with distinctly non-menstrual skin.

Coexist’s move recognises that yes, doing a full day’s work whilst fielding stomach cramps, dizziness and other ups-and-downs is pretty insufferable, and should be applauded. Whether other British companies decide to follow suit or not, starting a conversation about menstrual leave is another step towards de-stigmatizing periods.

Menstrual leave is entirely optional, and fears that women would take advantage of the proposal are a little patronising – like we’re just waiting to be given the go-ahead to waste company time by scoffing chocolate and spontaneously crying at pictures of Eddie Redmayne. In fact, global super brand Nike introduced a similar scheme years ago – and they aren’t doing too badly for it. As flexible working and healthier workspaces are becoming the norm, let’s hope that in a couple of years the idea of menstrual leave won’t seem headline-grabbing at all.


Grazia contributor Edwina Langley says...

This is a difficult issue to argue against – because even the word 'against' implies I am not in favour of supporting women who suffer. It goes without saying that I am. If a woman is in pain at work – for whatever reason – it is the duty of the person responsible for her in the workplace to take appropriate action to safeguard her well-being. As they would if a male employee were in pain.

However, creating a company policy that specifically targets women and their menstrual cycles – sorry, women in their 'winter state' – I find derogatory and patronising. Furthermore, I believe it would only serve to widen the gap between men and women, reinforcing existing prejudices that they cannot be considered equal.

Just thinking about it makes me sick. Say this policy actually takes on, spreads nationwide, becomes law even... can you imagine what a catastrophic impact this might have on the advances women have made in such fields as the police force or military – where women have battled tirelessly to be considered physically capable of doing the same work as a man, ALL days of the month?

How this little clause would undermine them! Because if a woman becomes legally entitled to take her 'period duvet day' at any given moment, she can't be considered as reliable as a man, can she? It'll be used as yet another excuse as to how women aren't capable of doing the 'big boys' work – and therefore women should probably step back and let the men get on with it (presumably whilst they hurry home to 'regroup, keep warm and nourish their [POOR FEEBLE] bodies...').


If a women is in crippling pain as a result of her period, she should be allowed to go home. And that's not because of her period or a company policy – but because of her crippling pain. There's no special 'office policy' on what to do if an employee gets a migraine, feels sick or faints is there? They're just sent home. The symptoms of menstruation should be treated the same.

In short, women shouldn't need a 'policy' for their ailments to be taken seriously. It's that they apparently do which is the real issue here.

Should menstrual leave be a given or is it unnecessary and patronising? Let us know what your thoughts on Facebook or on Twitter @GraziaUK!

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