‘Paid Period Leave’ Sounds Like a Good Idea, But Is It?
Pretty much every woman has experienced a period so horrendous, she’s been tempted to call out of work or skip school.
That’s why the idea of paid monthly period leave sounds awesome. Who wouldn’t want a day off or two every month when Aunt Flo hits?
But when you really start thinking about it, you might start to wonder: is this actually a good plan or even necessary?
The 31-person British company Coexist recently announced that they’ll be encouraging female employees to take time off if their periods are too much to handle every month, according to the Daily Mail. It’s not clear from the story exactly how this would shake out. But the company’s main goal is to get rid of the stigma surrounding period pain and make women feel comfortable tapping out if their periods are unmanageable.
“For too long there’s been a taboo surrounding periods,” company director Bex Baxter told the Daily Mail. “I have women staff telling me they’re ashamed to admit they’re in pain. I want us to break down that shame and replace the negativity with positivity. Both men and women have been open to the ideas — especially from the younger generation.”
Bex says she’s seen women doubled over in pain due to menstruation, but still unwilling to take a sick day because they don’t consider themselves unwell. This is why she’s putting formal guidelines in place to make women feel better about using paid time off for their periods.
If Coexist just plans to make it clear to female employees that they can use their sick time for unruly periods, cool.
But the idea that women should have built-in time off for their periods is pretty laughable and I’m not so sure that’ll lead to workplace equality.
Most people manage their lives just fine when they have their periods. Others have more trouble. But if your period is making you sick, that’s a medical problem. You should take measures to treat it, then get on with your life — not hit pause on your obligations every month to suffer in agony. If you let your period derail your life without seeking medical attention for what could be a preventable problem, you’re only doing a disservice to yourself.
My mom taught me from an early age never to use my period as an excuse for anything, because it would give guys an excuse to dismiss my feelings as “just PMS.” And I’m really thankful to her for it. Once I decided that I wouldn’t let PMS affect my moods, it kind of just… stopped affecting my moods.
And there’s actually science to back up the idea that in terms of mood, PMS actually doesn’t actually make that much of a difference. This Slate piece lays out all the evidence that we might be giving a bit too much credence to PMS, all because of pressure on women to be perfect. We gladly use hormones as an excuse to emote for a few days a month since the rest of the time, we’re supposed to be the perfect daughter, girlfriend, sister, etc.
Of course, cramps can’t be dominated by willpower alone. There are a few times a year when I’m tempted to call out on account of the pain. So sometimes I do. But usually I get over it and just go to work. And for a lot of women, if you go on the pill, the problem is nonexistent.
If you have cramps so bad that you can’t get out of bed month after month, you should go to the doctor because you could have PMDD, cysts, or other issues. Whatever it is, though, it’s probably treatable and your life will get better if you take care of it. And in the meantime, take a sick day or a half day. You’re entitled to it.
But if we look at our periods as something completely insurmountable that requires monthly downtime, it’s a slippery slope. Unfortunately, having a period is a part of life. So you’ll be better served, in the workplace and elsewhere, if you learn how to manage it.