Menstruation is not a sickness. But for some women, on some days during their cycle, the pain or exhaustion associated with it can be so bad that it can make working difficult, or even impossible.
Now, the Victorian Women’s Trust is promoting its “menstrual policy”, which they say for the past 12 months has been successfully assisting female employees who’re experiencing their period or menopause.
The VWT is also making its menstrual policy template freely available to other workplaces, in the hope other employers will follow their lead. The template offers everything an employer needs for introducing such a policy, including notes on where to “insert your organisation’s name” in to the document. The VWT tells me the policy was signed off by their own male HR manager, who was enthusiastic about the idea.
The policy offers a number of options for employees who’re managing their period: including to work from home; to stay at work but sit or lie somewhere comfortable (such as in a quiet area); and to take a day’s paid menstrual leave. It gives employees a maximum of 12 paid days per calendar year (pro-rata and non-cumulative) for those who’re unable to perform their work duties due to menstruation or menopause. A medical certificate is not required for these days.
The trial started after an employee, who’d been with the organisation for just three weeks, suddenly announced one morning that she had her period, after she’d indicated she was in paid and could no longer stay at work.
The VWT had also previously done research on the impact of menstruation at work, and had data on how paid leave could help. Its 2013 Waratah Project surveying 3400 people found that 58% of respondents said that having a day off a month to rest would make their period a better experience. More than half (52%) said not having to ‘make an excuse when feeling unwell’ would also make their period a better experience.
Writing about the policy on the organisation’s website, researchers Casimira Melican and Grace Mountford (pictured above) say it reflects the fact menstruation is simply part of life, whether you’re working or not.
“We all know menstruation is not a sickness, so it made no sense for her to take sick leave. So, our policy came into being and has been strongly endorsed by our board,” they write. “Having to lie about the real cause of your pain or discomfort reinforces the idea that menstruation is a negative thing rather than a fact of life.”
Expect to hear more talk of menstrual leave. As far as we know this is the first organisation in Australia to offer such a policy, but it won’t be the last.