Earlier today, it was announced that a company in Bristol are going to be the first in the UK to introduce ‘period leave’. Coexist, a community interest company, have a largely female workforce and are allowing them to work flexibly at different times of the month in an attempt to sync with employees’ ‘natural cycle to create [a] happier working environment’. This is a topic and decision that is obviously going to spark a lot of divided opinions and debate. I happen to think it’s a great idea and I thought I’d try articulate why.
I have had a draining relationship with my period, and although I have come to embrace it now, I still suffer from time to time. When I was a teenager, I had really really bad periods. They were so bad sometimes I had to take miss school. I remember spending an entire day in bed crying because I was in so much pain and no amount of painkillers would make it leave. Now I’m a lot more fortunate with my periods, but this isn’t the case for everyone.
For people with Endometriosis and Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), for example, period leave is simply revolutionary. Whether you want to believe it or not, there is still a stigma and a huge amount of ignorance surrounding periods. Because of this, a lot of people choose to suffer in silence. With period leave, people will (hopefully) no longer feel ashamed for needing to take time out during their period. It’s about time we start acknowledging how painful menstruation can be for some and period leave does exactly that. Not only are people seriously misinformed about the severity of period pains, they belittle them too. I think period leave is a positive step towards educating people and eliminating these bad attitudes. We don’t choose to menstruate so it doesn’t make any sense when we are ridiculed and shamed for doing so.
That’s not to say I don’t have some concerns though. Whilst I think this is a great idea, I don’t think it’s a scheme that should be abused. I’m lucky enough to have somewhat smoother periods now (thanks to my cup!), so I probably wouldn’t use this. I’d rather allow those who suffer more to utilise period leave. I know there are others out there who need it more than I do. I’m also aware that there are women out there who don’t agree with the need for period leave. A lady tweeted me saying she would “rather have a team who I knew would be onboard and present in the workplace”, which is why I fear those who choose to take leave will still stigmatised. Whilst this person (and anyone else for that matter) is completely entitled to their own opinion, attitudes like this do not help anyone.
I completely understand that not everyone is going to love their period and I’m not asking you to. You can be grossed out by your period, that’s completely down to you and your feelings towards your own period are valid. But that does not give you a right to define how somebody else should feel about theirs; after all, periods aren’t the same for everyone. You can disagree with period leave, but you should support those who desperately need it. When you say it’s ‘ridiculous’ etc., you’re entertaining this trend that shames and alienates thousands of people everywhere. We already have so many oppressors, why add to it? You may feel that period leave is not needed, but some do. You may think it plays into an ideal that women who do choose to take leave aren’t strong and, to be frank, I think that’s a little twisted.
I can understand people’s concerns with period leave being bad for business, but shouldn’t employees wellbeing be more of a concern? Personally, I’d much rather have happier and more productive employees. If my employees are fainting at their desks because of their periods (yes, that happens), what good is that to my company? I hope that this would also extend to non-binary people who menstruate too. I also hope people who choose to take leave are made to feel safe and don’t have to deal with additional stigma.
If you’re still doubting the need for period leave, take a look of some of these comments:
— Amy Coco (@amybumps) March 2, 2016
@Catstello it’s like having flu. Imagine ppl looking down on u & that kind of stigma w taking time off for agony you’re in every month!
— Steph (@thezombiesaid) March 2, 2016
@Catstello people are so poorly educated about endo & pcos, it makes it quite a lonely experience at times ?
— Charlotte (@colourscarousel) March 2, 2016
Although I fear this could potentially be unpaid leave (or people will have to use as sick days), I think period leave is a positive step for those who menstruate. Not only does it open up a discussion, it recognises that it’s more than ‘just a period’. It’s a step in the right direction to remove stigma, combat ignorance, and a create a period positive society.