In the guise of ‘helping women’ some UK employers are following the lead of some Italian and Indian employers by allowing women to take time off during their menstrual cycles. While periods can be a real pain, leave of this type undermines women for several reasons.
Perhaps not surprisingly, it should be noted that both Italy and India have lower levels of female participation in the workforce. It reinforces the idea that biological determinism has a place in the workplace – something we’ve seen recently when Google employee wrote about how ‘different’ women were from men biologically – rendering them less able for the sciences. Taken to it’s extreme it reminds us of the times people questioned how female leaders would handle political problems at her time of the month – a variation which was seen most recently when Donald Trump accused Megan Kelly of ‘having blood coming out of her mouth, out of her wherever’ knowing that analogy would resonate with some who like to diminish women and reduce them to caricatures driven solely by their biology as other to the masculine ‘norm’. For women who suffer from reproductive issues such as endometriosis, medical leave is appropriate but lumping all women together also risks the same effects we’ve seen when hiring – uncertainty if they should hire or promote her as she ‘may get pregnant’. We have seen improvements on this, but menstrual leave would only exacerbate issues if an employer thinks a woman might take a day off each month simply for because she is a healthy woman.