Women empowerment issues – Jobs,Reservation and education

Menstrual Leave and its Global Standing


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: NA

Mains level: Menstrual Leave


Recently, the Supreme Court refused to entertain a PIL about menstrual leave for workers and students across the country, calling it a policy matter.

Menstrual Leave: Explained

  • Menstrual leave refers to a policy that allows women to take paid or unpaid leave from work when experiencing painful menstrual symptoms.
  • This means that female employees who are experiencing discomfort, pain, or other symptoms related to their menstrual cycle can take time off from work without having to worry about losing pay or facing disciplinary action.
  • It is a relatively new concept and is not yet widely available, but it has gained attention in recent years as more countries and companies consider its implementation.

Recent debate

  • The concept of menstrual leave for workers and students has swirled around for a couple of centuries.
  • Such policies are uneven and subject to much debate, even among feminist circles.

How prominent is the idea?

  • Menstruating women were given leave from paid labour in Soviet Russia in the 1920s.
  • A historian even claims that a school in Kerala granted period leave as early as 1912.
  • In light of this, we explore the global framework for menstrual leave and which countries currently have them.

Need for menstrual leave

  • Pain and discomfort: Menstrual leave is needed because menstruation can cause a range of symptoms that can be painful and debilitating, making it difficult for women to perform their jobs.
  • Ensure job security: Such leave allows women to take time off when they need it, without having to worry about losing pay or facing disciplinary action.
  • Ensure productivity: This helps ensure that women are able to fully participate in the workforce and can perform to the best of their abilities.
  • Detaches stigma and discrimination: Additionally, menstrual leave can help reduce the stigma surrounding menstruation and promote a culture of openness and support for women.

Issues if policy measures are enforced

Not everyone— not even all those who menstruate— are in favour of menstrual leave.

  • Create employer discrimination: Some believe either that it is not required or that it will backfire and lead to employer discrimination against women.
  • Obligation may backfire: If govt policy compels employers to grant menstrual pain leave, it may operate as a de facto disincentive for employers to engage women in their establishments.

Arguments against menstrual leaves

  • Potential for discrimination against women: If women are given additional leave days, they may be viewed as less capable or less committed to their jobs compared to their male counterparts.
  • Concerns about decreased productivity: Opponents of menstrual leave policies argue that allowing women to take time off work during their menstrual cycle could result in decreased productivity, and ultimately harm businesses.
  • Challenges in implementation: Enforcement of such policies could be challenging for businesses, particularly small and medium-sized enterprises. These businesses may struggle to manage their workforce effectively if employees are taking additional leave days throughout the year.

What kind of menstrual leave policies are in place globally?

  • Spain: Recently, Spain became the first European country to grant paid menstrual leave to workers, among a host of other sexual health rights. Workers now have the right to three days of menstrual leave— expandable to five days— a month.
  • Japan: It introduced menstrual leave as part of labour law in 1947, after the idea became popular with labor unions in the 1920s. At present, under Article 68, employers cannot ask women who experience difficult periods to work during that time.
  • Indonesia: It introduced a policy in 1948, amended in 2003, saying that workers experiencing menstrual pain are not obliged to work on the first two days of their cycle.
  • Philippines: In the Philippines, workers are permitted two days of menstrual leave a month.
  • Taiwan: It has an Act of Gender Equality in Employment in place. Employees have the right to request a day off as period leave every month, at half their regular wage. Three such leaves are permitted per year— extra leaves are counted as sick leave.
  • Zambia: Among the African nations, Zambia introduced one day of leave a month without needing a reason or a medical certificate, calling it Mother’s Day.
  • Others: The petition also mentioned that the United Kingdom, China and Wales have menstrual leave provisions.

Thus we can say that almost every alternate country has provisions for menstrual leave.

What attempts are being made in India?

  • In India, too, certain companies have brought in menstrual leave policies— the most famous example being Zomato in 2020, which announced a 10-day paid period leave per year.
  • Time reported that 621 employees have taken more than 2,000 days of leave after the policy was introduced.
  • Other such as Swiggy and Byjus have also followed suit.
  • Among State governments, Bihar and Kerala are the only ones to introduce menstrual leave to women, as noted in the petition before the Supreme Court.

Parliamentary measures

Parliament has seen certain measures in this direction, with no success.

  • In 2017, MP Ninong Ering from Arunachal Pradesh introduced ‘The Menstruation Benefits Bill, 2017’ in Parliament.
  • It was represented in 2022 on the first day of the Budget Session in the Lok Sabha, but was disregarded as an “unclean topic,” the petition says.
  • Shashi Tharoor also introduced the Women’s Sexual, Reproductive and Menstrual Rights Bill in 2018, which proposed that sanitary pads should be made freely available for women by public authorities in their premises.

Way forward

  • Education and Awareness: Education and awareness campaigns can be conducted to educate employers, employees, and policymakers about the importance of menstrual health and the need for menstrual leave policies.
  • Flexible Work Arrangements: In lieu of specific menstrual leave policies, companies can offer flexible work arrangements, such as remote work or flexible scheduling, to accommodate employees who are experiencing menstrual discomfort.
  • Consultation with Experts: Policymakers can consult with health experts, labor organizations, and other stakeholders to develop comprehensive menstrual leave policies that meet the needs of both employees and businesses.
  • Pilot Programs: Pilot programs can be implemented to test the effectiveness of menstrual leave policies and evaluate their impact on businesses and employees.
  • Workplace Culture: Companies can work to create a workplace culture that supports menstrual health and normalizes conversations around menstruation. This can help to reduce the stigma associated with menstruation and promote gender equity in the workplace.


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