Should you get extra time off for 'menstrual leave'?

If you haven’t had one lately, you can probably remember them from puberty. Those bloat-y, spotty, world-ending, everything aches periods where all you can do is cuddle a hot water bottle, and try not to look in the mirror.

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It’s very hard to get anything productive done on those days. Now a UK based Obstetrician and Gynaecologist, Dr Gedis Grudzinskas, is suggesting that women should get paid time off for bad periods. He told the Daily Mail that ‘menstrual leave’ would “make people feel more happy and comfortable in the workplace, which is a positive thing.”

Dr Grudzinskas is suggesting between one and three additional days of paid leave a month for female employees. He believes that since menstruation is not a sickness, taking time off for a bad period shouldn’t eat into your sick leave. He also thinks any man who feels the idea of extra  ‘menstrual leave’ is unfair is being unreasonable. “It’s not men who have to get pregnant, go through IVF and childbirth. Men will just have to understand.”

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This concept isn’t quite as far fetched as it sounds. Menstrual leave is already standard practice in Indonesia, and was common in Japan in the early half of the 20th century.

There are however some pretty big problems with the idea. First of all, it smacks of sexism. Just as we tend to over-police and medicalise women’s bodies during pregnancy, it is very easy to exaggerate how onerous menstruation is. Plus, women’s hormones have traditionally been used to justify the sexist exclusion of women from leadership positions. 

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On the flip side, more than one in ten women in Australian women suffer from severe menstrual related disorders such as endometriosis and polycystic ovarian syndrome and it would be great if these women could catch a break from their employers when they’re in an especially bad state. In  Australia, full time workers are entitled to ten days sick leave a year, and if you do have a condition as painful and debilitating as endometriosis, those days can get used up pretty quickly – and that’s assuming you never even catch a cold.

So, is paid menstrual leave a good idea? Bad idea? Totally sexist?