Published by The Critograph on Jan. 25, 2017
Katherine Graves, Copy Desk Chief-
The United States does not have universal laws regarding menstrual leave, and only one company in the U.S. has a policy referencing it.
Coexist, a small British company in Bristol, announced in March 2016 that they would introduce a ‘period policy,’ which sparked debate about whether or not menstrual leave is a necessary concern that should be addressed by other companies.
Currently, Japan, South Korea, Indonesia, Taiwan and the Chinese province Anhui have laws regarding menstrual leave.
Nike has a menstrual leave policy that is universal in all their countries of operation.
“’For too long there’s been a taboo surrounding periods–I have women staff telling me they’re ashamed to admit they’re in pain,” Coexist director Bex Baxter said in an interview with Daily Mail UK.
In her article “Thanks, But We Will Pass On Paid Menstrual Leave,” Slate’s Katy Waldman argues that companies should have a sick-leave policy that offers enough sick days to include the days women might need to take off for menstrual difficulties.
Amelia Costigan, director of Catalyst (a nonprofit organization that helps women progress in the workplace), believes that the policy undermines women’s ability to compete at work and that men and women shouldn’t need to explain why they use their sick days.
“When you start using the ‘why’ then people start getting judgment,” Costigan said in an interview with SELF.
Dysmenorrhea is the condition of painful menstrual cramps. In an interview with Broadly, Dr. Raegan McDonald-Mosley, chief medical officer at Planned Parenthood Federation of America, says 50 to 90 percent of women may experience dysmenorrhea.
Dysmenorrhea can be classified as primary dysmenorrhea or secondary dysmenorrhea.
Primary dysmenorrhea is lower abdominal or back pain commonly experienced before or during menstruation.
Secondary dysmenorrhea is pain caused by reproductive organ disorders, such as endometriosis, pelvic inflammatory disease, stenosis or tumors.
Endometriosis is a common condition, where endometrial tissue develops outside the uterus. Endometriosis affects one in 10 women in the United States, according to the Endometriosis Foundation of America.
Work absences due to endometriosis are protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act, or ADA. The limitations of this act include that it only applies to large businesses and that employers can reassign employees to a lower-paying position after their absence.
According to the Endometriosis Foundation of America, symptoms of endometriosis are long (over seven day) periods, extremely heavy periods, cramps that cannot be eased by NSAIDs and nausea or vomiting. Women who think they may be experiencing these symptoms should visit their doctor or gynecologist.
To help with primary dysmenorrhea, McDonald-Mosley suggests exercise, using a heating pad, acupuncture and Vitamin E tablets. WebMD also suggests taking a pain reliever, such as aspirin, Tylenol, Motrin or Aleve and putting a heating pad or hot water bottle on the abdomen or lower back.
Although menstrual leave is a topic that is avoided in U.S. companies and legislation, it affects women and the workplace every day. People may not want to discuss this topic, but at the least, perhaps it should be considered since it is an issue that will exist as long as women exist.