It happens every month.
Cramps, back pain, headaches and exhaustion often accompany a woman's menstrual cycle, affecting billions of tween, teen and adult women around the world. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, pain during menstruation is the number one reason that women in their teens and 20s call in sick to work. One British company is hoping to tackle the issue head on by making it acceptable for women to take time off while they're menstruating.
Coexist, a U.K.-based arts center, is considering adopting a "menstrual leave" policy that would give women a certain number of days each month to deal with their menstrual symptoms. Under the policy, women could choose to work from home, take time off, or make up work time later. Coexist has not yet determined how many days will be granted for menstrual leave each month, but the company wants to get input from the staff to set an appropriate time frame.
Menstrual leave policies, or "period policies" as they are also called, are not entirely new. Sportswear giant Nike already has a menstrual leave policy built into its employee handbook. In Japan, a policy was initiated in 1947 granting women time off for work during their monthly cycles, and other Asian countries have followed suit.
According to Coexist's administrators, the company's seven male employees (who make up roughly 30 percent of the total 24 people on staff,) are on-board with the policy. But outside the company, many people are speaking out against what they see as a slippery slope toward "benevolent sexism," in which policies meant to help women actually undermine their role in the workplace.
The backlash on Twitter has been loud and clear:
I disagree wildly with #MenstrualLeave - it gives misogynists an argument against women. We're capable humans who function 30 days a month.— Sascha Camilli (@saschacamilli) March 2, 2016
#menstrualleave is already accepted as part of sickness if it us genuinely debilitating what next? Time off to buy bras?— Daniela Jacques (@danielajacques_) March 2, 2016
Time off for maternity leave time off for #menstrualLeave and then wonder why employers are reluctant to employ women on equal pay— Robert Baker (@Ribsymac1) March 2, 2016
There are strong feelings on this one. I think some women suffer intense pain during their menstrual cycle, but the majority of women are able to function without incident regardless of their period symptoms. I don't think menstruation should be a taboo subject, but there's a big difference between talking about your period and using it as a crutch at work.