The decision of a Mumbai-based company, Culture Machine Media Pvt. Ltd., to award a one-day menstrual leave once a month to their female employees has generated a fair share of discussion and debate. Following close on the heels of Culture Machine Media Pvt. Ltd., Mathrubhumi, a Kerala-based media company has also introduced the one-day menstrual leave in its company. The debate even reached the United Kingdom, with the Guardian publishing an article on July 19, 2017 entitled “’Silly and regressive’: Indian firms introduce period days”. India is not the first country where such leave has been granted. The concept was invented by the Japanese in the last century.
The effects of menstruation vary from woman to woman. Beginning on a personal note, I have never taken leave because of menstruation. But then, I am an academician, and my work does not entail extreme physical exertion. Even if I could avail a one-day menstrual leave every month, I would not do so as that would lead to a build-up of work. I am at my place of work today, and I need to be here today, to, among other things, take a class. (I teach MBA students). If I do not take that class today, I would have to take that class tomorrow, in addition to the two classes assigned to me for tomorrow. This would be burdensome. It would also unsettle my students who will not be able to attend classes in an organized, structured fashion. Additionally, the scheduling of classes will become a nightmare.
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I do however recognize that not all women experience menstruation the same way. Since we are interested in creating humane organizations which nurture employees, we should be supportive of those women who find menstruation and its attendant side-effects difficult. In that context, a one-day menstrual leave in all organizations, including educational organizations, can be considered positively. However, my personal experience as a professor of business administration so far has been that female students do not ask for leave of absence from classes on grounds of menstruation. Once, (and only once) a female student took sick leave on grounds of anaemia and cited menstruation as a secondary reason for leave application.
The flip side of awarding a one-day menstrual leave will make competitive companies hesitate to hire women. Women and men working in high-performance companies cannot afford to take a day off. Employees who need to take a day off once a month, regardless of the work-related negative consequences are not going to be valued by their employing company. The suspected suicide death of Sarvshreshth Gupta in New York, an analyst at top Goldman-Sachs investment banking company in June 2015 has highlighted the long work hours demanded by aggressively-oriented investment banking/financial services companies, every day. These companies are unlikely to hire women, however competent, if they are required to give a monthly day off to them.
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What educational institutes can do is to support women by providing sanitary napkins and tampons at discreet counters or through vending machines in rest rooms. This would obviate the need for women to carry sanitary napkins with them to ladies’ rooms and maintain a continuous supply with them.
In many instances where affirmative action has been taken to cater to the special needs of a group of people, individuals who do not belong to that group have suffered from reverse discrimination. Thus to avoid this, and to ensure gender parity, men should also be allowed a one day leave of absence every month. That day could be called the one-day rejuvenation day. Perhaps the one-day menstrual leave day can also be called the one-day rejuvenation day.