Menstrual Leave

  • Leave and Absence
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Peninsula Team, Peninsula Team

(Last updated )

In this guide, we'll discuss what menstrual leave is, the benefits of offering it, as well as how you can create your own menstrual leave policy.

The health and wellbeing of your employees can impact their ability to work. This is especially the case for your female workers who experience debilitating period pain each month.

Not all women have painful periods. But for those who do, they can experience serious symptoms as a result. For example, the pain might be so severe that they are unable to move. In these instances, you might consider offering the person affected unpaid or paid menstrual leave.

In this guide, we'll discuss what menstrual leave is, the benefits of offering it, as well as how you can create your own menstrual leave policy.

What is menstrual leave?

Menstrual leave is a type of paid or unpaid leave specifically for individuals who experience debilitating periods. Those that suffer from serious menstrual pain can have a variety of symptoms; which adversely affect their ability to do work. These symptoms include:

  • Heavy bleeding.
  • Feeling tired.
  • Feeling bloated.
  • Extreme pain.
  • Severe mood swings.
  • Poor mental health.

In fact, the pain might be so severe that staff are unable to attend work. And if your company doesn't offer unpaid or paid days of menstrual leave, the employee would have to take sick leave instead.

Which countries have menstrual leave?

There are several countries that offer menstrual leave. For example, Spain is the first European Country to pass legislation that allows those who experience severe period pain to take up to three days leave. This can even be extended to five in severe cases - where working is especially difficult for the individual.

Other countries that offer menstrual leave include:

  • Indonesia: Indonesia passed a law in 2003 which allows employees to take two paid leave days a month for their menstrual health, without giving prior notice.
  • Japan: Menstrual leave has been legal in Japan since 1947. The law states that companies must agree to give those menstrual leave if requested - for as long as needed.
  • South Korea: South Korea offers women one day of unpaid menstrual leave a month. Employers who refuse to provide it could face fines.
  • Taiwan: In Taiwan, women are only entitled to a three-day menstrual leave of absence per year. This is not deducted from their statutory sickness absence leave and does not have to be paid time off.
  • Zambia: Women are allowed to take one day off work during their period - without having to provide a doctor's note or notice. This is discreetly known as 'Mother's Day'.

Does the UK have a menstrual leave law?

No, the UK does not have a menstrual leave law or similar legislation, therefore it is up to the company themselves if they choose to offer it.

Currently, anyone who is unable to attend the office due to their debilitating symptoms would have to get self certify as sick for the first seven days, then get a doctor's note. And the only pay they'd be entitled to is statutory sick pay - if they qualify – or company sick pay.

Is period pain a protected characteristic?

No, under the Equality Act 2010, period pain is not a protected characteristic, but having a disability is. Meaning, people with disabilities are protected from receiving unfair treatment because of their condition.

But, to be considered a disability, their physical or mental impairment must have a substantial and long-term effect on their day-to-day life and normal daily activities. This might include individuals with menstrual illnesses, such as endometriosis.

If an employee discloses a menstrual disability to yourself, you must ensure you avoid treating them differently. Not to mention, you must also provide them with reasonable adjustments.

What happens if you don't provide reasonable adjustments?

If you don’t provide an employee who has a disability with reasonable adjustments, they could raise a claim to an employment tribunal. But, this is only if you had no reasonable justification for not making the adjustment.

According to UK law, these are changes you can make to your workplace or even their role, to remove or reduce the disadvantages related to an individual's disability.

For example, you might allow them to work from home when their symptoms are severe - as travelling to the office could cause them to worsen.

What are the benefits of providing menstrual leave?

Providing menstrual leave could be beneficial for your company, as well as many employees. For example, offering menstrual leave could:

Reduce the stigma around periods

Menstrual leave can also help to reduce the stigma around menstruation in your workplace. Many people often associate periods with shame and secrecy, or just find it to be a taboo topic. But, talking openly and honestly about periods and menstrual leave can raise awareness around menstrual issues, as well as encourage employees to be transparent about theirs.

Increase workplace productivity

Offering menstrual leave could also increase workplace productivity. This is because it reduces the chance of presenteeism - where staff come into work even when unwell. Instead, employees will feel supported by taking time off to rest and come back to work focused and refreshed.

Promote equal opportunities and gender equality

Menstrual leave could promote gender equity at work because it ensures all employees have access to support and other resources to aid their health and wellbeing. As a result, all staff have the opportunity to excel in the workplace.

What are the causes of severe period pain?

There are a number of health conditions that can cause severe period pain, and it’s important that you're familiar with them all. So, if an employee ever discloses it, you have an idea of what they're going through and how to support them.

These include:

PCOS

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) is a common condition that affects how an individual's ovaries work. The main symptoms of PCOS are:

  • Irregular menstrual periods. Meaning, that the individual's ovaries do not regularly release eggs.
  • Excess androgen. Androgen is a 'male' hormone, and can cause excess facial or body hair.
  • Polycystic ovaries. This is where the ovaries are enlarged and contain fluid-filled sacs that surround the eggs.

The exact cause of PCOS is unknown, but it's said to run in families.

Endometriosis

Endometriosis is a disorder where the tissue in the lining of the womb grows in other places. For example, it might grow on the ovaries or fallopian tubes. Symptoms include:

  • Pain in the lower tummy or back.
  • Period pain that stops you from performing your normal hobbies.
  • Feeling sick, having constipation or diarrhoea.

However, symptoms vary from person to person.

How can you support employees with painful periods?

As an employer, you must do everything you reasonably can to support staff who experience painful periods, or period-related illnesses. If you're struggling to determine what support you need to offer, there are a number of steps you can take.

These include:

Implement a menstrual leave policy

As discussed, one way you can support employees with painful periods is by providing menstrual leave. But, to do so, you should implement a menstrual leave policy. Menstrual leave policies outline what amount of menstrual leave your employees:

  • Are entitled to.
  • How they can request it, and;
  • Who they request it from.

Without one, it might cause confusion amongst staff. For example, staff members might not know who to contact should they want to request menstrual leave.

Introduce hybrid working arrangements

Another way you can support employees experiencing pain during their period is to introduce hybrid working, reduced hours or allow them to work remotely.

Flexible working like this will enable employees to work more comfortably and give them more autonomy over their working conditions.

Train employees on menstrual health

You can support employees with a painful menstrual period and period-related illnesses by training all staff on menstrual health. This will help raise awareness around period-related illnesses, to help staff understand the problems it causes some of their colleagues.

Awareness will also encourage those with periods to open up about their menstrual health, which will allow you to help them. Not to mention, you could also ensure you provide free period products at work. It might not sound like much, but it can act as a token of solidarity, and reinforce the care you have for your employees.

Get expert advice on menstrual leave from Peninsula

If you'd like to offer paid or unpaid menstrual leave, you must ensure you do so properly. This means creating a menstrual leave policy so everyone is on the same page regarding period leave. Failure to implement menstrual leave properly could negatively affect your business.

For example, if you don't make reasonable adjustments for an employee with a period-related disability, they could raise a claim against you at an employment tribunal. As a result, you could face financial and reputational damage.

Peninsula offers expert advice on menstrual leave, as well as how to manage staff who have requested leave for medical reasons. Our teams provide 24/7 HR advice which is available 365 days a year. We take care of everything when you work with our HR experts.

Want to find out more? Contact us on 0800 028 2420 and book a free consultation with an HR consultant today.

 

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