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.
In 2016, Coexist, a U.K.-based arts center, adopted a "menstrual leave" policy (also called "period policies") that would gave women a certain number of days each month to deal with their menstrual symptoms. Under the policy, women can choose to work from home, take time off, or make up work time later. Sportswear giant Nike has a menstrual leave policy built into its employee handbook since 2007. And in Japan, a policy was initiated in 1947 granting women time off for work during their monthly cycles; other Asian countries have followed suit.
Now, a draft law in Italy is being debated in the lower house of Parliament that, if approved, would allow female employees who experience painful periods to take three days of paid leave each month. While some have welcomed this proposed legislation as a sign of progress and social sustainability, others — including the working women it's intended to help — say it will only lead to more workplace discrimination.
Many people are speaking out on social media 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. Not to mention if you'd like to use your menstrual leave days, you'll likely have to share with your boss that it's your time of the month — not exactly water-cooler chit-chat.
The backlash on Twitter has been loud and clear:
"Can we meet the client next week with our new proposal..No Diane will be on her period" #MenstrualLeave Really?— Very Shoppy Barry (@sweenster74) August 24, 2016
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 🌈 (@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.
Editor's note: This story has been updated since it was originally published in March 2016.