Hi JJ, sincere thanks for your comment.
I have conducted a fair bit of research into menstrual leave- including studies of its implementation in Japan (since 1942), and Zambia, as well as individual companies. So, whilst my argument might seem simplistic, it is based on evidence.
I especially recommend taking a look at Izumi Nakayama’s 2007 PhD thesis ‘Periodic struggles: Menstruation leave in modern Japan. (Doctoral Thesis) Harvard University 2007 Retrieved from ProQuest (Accession №455218142)- which outlines the various negative impacts that menstrual leave has had on women workers’ rights over there.
There is also a fair amount of research into patient help-seeking behaviour, especially in relation to menstrual cycle health issues- e.g. the work of Graham and Annette Scambler (Menstrual Disorders- 1993)- which reveals that a large proportion of people are reluctant to see a doctor about period pain- either because they feel it is ‘not a proper health issue’, or feel that there is nothing a doctor can do, or simply feel ashamed due to the menstrual taboo…
A recent survey in the UK (of 1000 women) found that nearly 10% of respondents did not feel comfortable speaking to anyone (including a doctor) about severe period pain. (See a discussion of this survey- here- http://www.menstrual-matters.com/blog/period-pain/).
The backlash against gender-specific employment policies are very real- as you have indicated- but that is not a reason to implement another one- rather a reason to think very carefully about how best to support those individuals with recurring severe pain, in a way that doesn’t increase discrimination against women workers.
I think we are actually in agreement- we want to reduce the stigma around people being able to take sick leave for severe period pain. We just differ on how we think that is best achieved. I am convinced that we should learn from the history of menstrual leave policies in other countries and contexts, as well as other gender-specific policies e.g. maternity leave (as opposed to parental leave), and avoid further associating all female employees (regardless of their health, or even menstruating status) as necessarily negatively affected by menstruation- whilst advocating for more flexible sick leave for all people affected by chronic conditions.
I realise that ensuring employers really do see period pain as a legitimate health issue, one that deserves the same respect as other chronic health issues, is much easier said than done- but I do think it is possible to achieve with greater awareness-raising efforts (myself included).
As someone who has battled with significant menstrual cycle-related health issues myself, and has dedicated the past three years to researching this topic and setting up an information hub to help others with these issues, you can trust that I do not come to these opinions without much thought and research.
I am sorry that you think my opinion is directed against people with severe period pain, it truly is not. The rest of my career will be spent raising awareness about menstrual cycle-related health issues, including endometriosis and other causes of severe period pain. I hope this at least reassures you that my intentions are sound, even if you disagree with my position on menstrual leave.
Thanks again for your thoughtful comments.
Sally King- Director of Menstrual Matters.