Zomato recently announced the paid period leave policy of ten days per year for women and transgender employees. This is a welcome move as many women suffer from debilitating pain and cramps due to menstruation.
As a woman, I have never suffered from period pain but when we were young, many months I watched my sister lying in bed with a hot water bag on her tummy. My aunt recently recounted to us how she suffered from debilitating cramps and period pain which forced her to stay at home from work. Her employers were sympathetic but some of her bosses were definitely not very understanding and accused her of being lazy.
About 80% of women suffer from some form of period pain at some stage in their life. However, for 5-10% of women, the pain is extremely severe and could disrupt their daily routines. For 40% of women, period pain is accompanied by premenstrual symptoms, such as bloating, tender breasts, swollen stomach, lack of concentration, mood swings, clumsiness and tiredness.
This move from companies that offer this leave recognises that women who suffer pain and other side effects have guaranteed time to take care of their health. It also opens the door to normalising a taboo conversation about menstruation and menstrual health. Moreover, it's important for men to be more understanding, less uncomfortable in dealing with this subject.
In the past few years there have been more conversations about periods and period pain than ever before. Many corporate bathrooms now have sanitary pads and tampons in the ladies’ bathrooms. Having more openness about female bodies and their differences from men’s is important.
Women’s bodies can procreate and carry on the species. But because of this key function, women’s bodies have unique complications like postpartum depression, hormonal changes and mood swings at key junctures of their lives. All this needs to be researched, spoken about and understood better.
Men’s bodies cannot carry a baby or give birth to one. Yet, it seems strange that women and their bodily needs are not given due credit and sufficient support in a business environment. Instead, often policies favouring women are seen negatively and have an adverse effect on them.
Take for example the six month Maternity Benefit Act or the Prevention of Sexual Harassment of Women at the Workplace Act. Both these have resulted in employers preferring male employees to female employees because they are looking at productivity of human bodies to achieve their capitalistic goals.
But not for a moment do they consider if women chose not to have babies and just work like their male counterparts. What then would happen? Who would continue the species? Who would be around to buy their products or services? For this reason, businesses who care about their bottom line should still care about women’s health and well-being. There must be a holistic perspective when deciding and implementing policies that take into account women’s bodies and experiences.
And, let’s not get distracted by the one person who is lazy and/or misuses the system but look at the larger welfare of people and all those who truly would benefit from the time to care for their health.
In recent years, it’s been promising to see more businesses make an attempt to be more open. I believe paid period leave is a step in the right direction.
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