Olivia (name changed) is 38 years old and has a plush job at a multinational company in the bustling financial district of Manhattan, New York. A passionate business analyst, Olivia loves her job.

On one day of every month, however, she feels like skipping work — the first day of her period. “I feel like I am carrying a boulder on my abdomen as I sit at my desk and laboriously review financial statements while wincing in pain. All I want to do is take the day off and curl up in bed,” she confides.

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[post_ads_2]Olivia’s sentiments are echoed by women in many countries across the globe where paid —or even unpaid — menstrual leaves are still a distant reality.

Primary dysmenorrhoea —or period/ menstrual pain—affects approximately 40 – 70 percent of women of reproductive age around the world, according to a research paper published by ResearchGate, a social networking site for scientists and researchers. Despite the problems women face during the menstrual cycle, the issue is not being debated openly in public spaces.

According to a 2013 study conducted across 1,072 females aged between 18-58 years in the United States, 57 percent women said they felt embarrassed when they got their period at their workplace, which makes it evident why women don't want to fight for menstrual leaves.

A simple Google search on paid menstrual leave in the country shows period leave policies in workplaces are to a large degree not usual, and obviously not mandated. But some organizations and countries are setting an example by offering paid menstrual leaves to the working women.

As the debate rages over the issue, several issues have been offered both for and against the period leave policy. Several arguments offered against the policy are:
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  1. Loss to businesses: In an interview with Fast Company, the founder of Thinx (a U.S company that manufactures 'period-proof underwear'), Miki Agrawal said: “Women go through their cycle every single month. We are not going to be, like, you can work from home whenever. We are a company, we are building a business.” She also added women should not allow menstruation interfere with their productivity.
  2. Increases gender pay gap: In a Forbes article, finance writer Tim Worstall puts forth the arguments that giving extra paid days off to women as menstrual leave could increase the gender pay gap. He says as the companies have to bear the cost of these paid leaves, the wages of the women taking the days off as menstrual leaves would fall in comparison to those that do not. He says the wages of women who take period leaves would decrease by1/22 or 1/23 in comparison to those that do not (men and post-menopausal women). 
  3. Benefits only a small section of women: In countries like India where a large number of women work in the unorganized sector, there is also the argument that such a policy could never be applied to those jobs.
  4. It is sexist and prying:  Some people are of the view the policy renders girls and women less capable than men. A research fellow at the University of Melbourne, Carla Pascoe, writes  in an article for the Conversation: “Enshrining menstrual leave as a normal part of organizational policy creates the impression that all women experience period pain so crippling that ordinary work functioning is impossible.” The article also argues the period leave policy should not be mandated.  According to another article in Slate, women do not need the “extra slack” that period leaves offer.
All these ideological arguments are thwarted in an article by The Quint titled “Stop Crying ‘Sexist!’ – ‘Period Leave’ is Just Good Sense” where the writer argues that while some women may not experience menstrual pain and do not need to take days off, a majority of women do and this does not make them any lesser than men.
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Another argument in the article is the standard for measuring efficiency in women is based on the physiological composition of a man. “This distinctive manner is perceived as weakness, which sanctions ridicule of femininity. Therefore, women get trapped and have to ultimately abandon their body’s mode of working so as to not be perceived as ‘weak’,” says Mitsu Sahay in this piece.

ReadPeriod Leave In The UK? British Company Offers Women Time Off During Menstrual Cycle

At a panel discussion held by the Huffington Post in 2014, the founder of Skepchick.org, Rebecca Watson, used the argument that paid period leave would not be such a controversy if men experienced such pain too. Her exact words were: “Should men get paid time off if they were kicked in the testicles, yes, like if you have a medical problem, you should get to take time off.” Watson added giving a period leave was a simple matter of workers' rights and offering such leaves encouraged women to work more. Watson's website, Skepchick.org is a collection of science blogs.

Menstrual leave policies exist in some Asian countries and Italy is on the path to become the first Western country to implement them. Individual companies in many countries have the choice to offer paid period leaves and many have chosen to do so.

In the U.S, 47 percent of the workforce consists of women, according to the Department of Labor's 2010 data. While some menstruating women among them may want to take days off on their period— if offered— others may not and it is a matter of choice. The time for a debate on the policy, however, is ripe.