Can You Take Time Off Work For Period Pain?

Periods in the Workplace

Have you needed to take time off work due to period pain?

If so, then you’re not on your own. In a study of 32,748 Dutch women between the ages of 15 and 45, around one in seven respondents (just under 14%) said they had taken time off work or school during their period.
For some of the participants, this was a regular occurrence as 3.5% of women commented that this happened during every, or nearly every, menstrual cycle.

Whether people with periods should have time off work for period pains or heavy bleeding has been an ongoing debate.

Some advocate for extra leave for period pain on a monthly basis, while others argue that this would only widen the gender pay gap, provide fewer job opportunities for women, and fuel sexism.

Taking time off work allows people who menstruate to take care of themselves during the most uncomfortable times of their period, without needing to use any of their annual leave.

Taking time off when experiencing period pain can be beneficial to the company, as for some period pain makes it harder to continue with work, just as any man or woman would if they were experiencing pain.

If menstrual leave was to be granted, it would then ease the conversations around periods, normalise them, and remove some stigmas.

Having these discussions around periods in the workplace helps to put the topic on the political agenda, forcing people to consider the options. It also has an impact on addressing other concerns such as period poverty and the tampon tax.

Additional Issues

A worry for some people is that they may be less likely to be hired if an employer thinks they may take too much time off work for their periods. Some women already feel disadvantaged when applying for a job, as prospective employers may be considering whether they might take time off for pregnancy-related issues, and then maternity leave.

If menstrual leave was to come into effect there may be a need to address those who have pain and health concerns due to pregnancy, perimenopause, menopause, and irregular periods.

Some people with periods who experience irregular periods may get 2 bleeds per month, or nothing for a few months, which may add further worry that in that their employer will think they are inconsistent when asking for time off.

It could highlight differences and cause embarrassment for women who, for whatever reason, do not have periods. Colleagues may ask questions such as, ‘why don’t you take time off for your period?’

Menstrual Leave in Other Countries

Since 1947, Japan’s labour standard law has allowed women menstrual leave. It is believed that the law originated from the thought that women needed to rest during their periods, so as not to cause a problem with their fertility.

In Indonesia, women are entitled to two days off for menstrual leave and in Taiwan women are offered 3 days of menstrual leave.

In South Korea, since 2001, women may take one day off a month, however, this day is unpaid. If women do not use their one day of period leave then they will be given additional pay.

It’s reported that although women in Asia are being offered menstrual leave, few are claiming it as…

  • Women feel guilty about taking time off
  • The pressure it places on work colleagues
  • Difficulty in covering the position
  • Worry of what colleagues and employers may say

Did you know.. A football app start-up in Gothenburg is set to become the first business in Sweden to be certified as menstruation-friendly. But how much do employees really want to talk about their periods? There is an interesting article over at BBC. Worth a read.

How To Tell Your Boss You Need Time off Work For Period Pain

It can be difficult to tell your boss, male or female, you need time off for period pain or heavy bleeding. The thought of it can be uncomfortable and embarrassing.

The good news is that you don’t need to go into detail about why you need the time off. As long as they’re aware that you’re on sick leave, and you follow your company’s policies on leave, you should be fine

Managing Periods At Work

Perhaps you don’t want to, or are unable to, take time off work, but the thought of sitting at your desk or on your feet all day is making you feel worse, then these tips will help you get through your day...

  • Work from home, this way you can keep on top of your workload, doesn’t use any of your annual leave, and still get paid
  • Ask a colleague to swap work duties
  • Take a hot water bottle to work, our WUKA bottles fit securely around your waist
  • Keep some painkillers in your draw or locker
  • Wear comfy clothes
  • Make sure you have enough period products with you. With WUKA Heavy pant, you can be sure you’ll stay leak-free for up to 8 hours. Or for your medium flow days, try our medium flow period pants, complete tampon and pad replacement. They hold around 15ml of period flow which is the equivalent of around 2-3 tampons' worth.
  • Carry healthy snacks and water with you to refuel - dark chocolate is a good option
  • Take regular breaks to walk around
  • Find a quiet room and practise these yoga stretches
  • Exercising before or after work may help to relieve your aches  

Bottom Line

There is a clear debate for and against people with periods being entitled to menstrual leave in the workplace.

In some Asian countries, menstrual leave is already in place. However, some people who menstruate may feel awkward about taking it due to how others may view them or being a burden on work colleagues.

It can be difficult asking for time off when you know it’s due to period pain, but if you need to go home and take care of yourself, then do. Your health is a priority.

Being practically prepared can help you through your day at work whilst on your period. Be sure to wear your WUKA and pack some chocolate.