Women know all too well the pain and discomfort that strike once a month in the form of migraines, bloating, and cramps. These are the dreaded physical symptoms of menstruation, and they can reach a point of being so unbearable that some women may want nothing more than to press pause for a few days and suffer in the comfort of their own beds. However, while this may seem like a fantasy, one doctor is changing the conversation, suggesting that it may be time for that fantasy to become a reality.


British doctor Gedis Grudzinskas recently suggested that women should be given formal menstrual leave from their jobs each month. He makes the suggestion largely in the interest of productivity, claiming that it does not make sense to expect a woman to perform efficiently and prolifically when suffering from painful menstruation. Grudzinskas argues that women should be entitled to up to three days a month of menstruation-specific “rest leave” beyond their general sick days.


The idea presented by Grudzinskas is not entirely new. In fact, there are many nations in Asia which actually have systems in place that practice variations of the policy in the workplace. In Taiwan, for example, women are offered three paid days of menstrual leave per month. Japan is another country that offers women menstrual leave. Yet similar policies are relatively unapparent in the West, making the conversation sparked by Grudzinskas a new one, at least in a regional sense.


While coping with severe menstrual symptoms can be tough on women, menstrual leave may hurt the argument for gender equality in the workplace (cbsnews.com)

While coping with severe menstrual symptoms can be tough on women, menstrual leave may hurt the argument for gender equality in the workplace (cbsnews.com)

Socially, the concept may be more harmful than helpful. Menstrual leave can be a hindrance to career growth. While Grudzinskas included in his argument the fact that a policy like this should in no way be considered a legitimate interference with a woman’s career progression, the chances of that actually being the case are slim.


Employers reviewing potential candidates will clearly see the distinction in leave days for females versus males. This reality would make it more reasonable to hire the male candidate as opposed to the female. This rationale may hold true when considering things like promotions or raises for present employees, as well.


Gender equality in the workplace is also a considerable factor. When it comes to menstruation, it’s true that many women suffer to the point where it is definitely tough to get through a day of work. However, the moment when those women start getting special treatment for a gender-based experience like menstruation is the moment that we challenge the concept of gender equality in the workplace before it has even been fully established.


Men’s and women’s experiences will never be entirely identical. Our best chance of achieving gender equality in the workplace is to keep systems in place that treat men and women as similarly as possible, which is not likely to be achieved with the implementation of menstrual leave.


Do you think menstrual leave would be more beneficial or harmful to working women? Share your thoughts below or tweet me @tamarahoumi