Many Australian companies have already implemented this new personal leave, which means you could have more days off.
At present, few Australian companies offer it. But a new – and very specific – form of personal leave could be coming your way.
An employee who works at a company that already offers it said it was “fantastic”.
And rather than spending fewer days in the office and seeing productivity plummet, the reverse could happen.
Last year, a number of Australian companies introduced paid menstrual leave for employees who needed it. Yet, although the policy has drawn criticism, these companies have never looked back, with many claiming to have seen notable improvements in productivity.
Sydney-based underwear company Modibodi introduced paid leave in May last year, allowing staff up to 10 days a year. Modibodi CEO Kristy Chong said BBC News that she has no regrets since her installation. Ms. Chong believes the policy has actually increased trust between her managers and employees and boosted productivity.
“By supporting women with these policies, you are empowering them to actually want to be at work and perform at their best,” she said.
Future Super, a Sydney-based retail super fund, is another company that introduced paid menstrual leave in January last year. Just four months after its introduction, 22% of the company’s female employees had used it.
Khalia Prasser works Inhuman Resources for the company and was part of the team that developed the policy, called the ‘Good policy’.
She told news.com.au that since its implementation there has been more openness about menstruation in the office. In one anecdote, she said an employee changed her work status to a towel emoji, signaling to co-workers that she was on menstrual leave.
“I don’t think it’s women who should feel embarrassed,” she said.
Menstrual symptoms are not the same for all women. Some may experience no problems, while for others the symptoms may be painful and extremely distressing. Women with endometriosis and premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) can suffer from a range of debilitating side effects including back pain, migraines, cramps and heavy bleeding that often require constant attention.
Although menstruation is a taboo subject, it is increasingly part of public discourse. In March, the federal government announced $58 million in funding to expand the treatment of endometriosis and, at the same time, the The NSW Government presented a $30 million program to place pads and tampons in schools to combat truancy.
Despite increased awareness about the rules, many employees are still uncomfortable raising the issue with their superiors. A 2021 survey from the Victorian Women’s Trust and Circle In, a Melbourne-based HR software provider, found that 70% of 700 women did not feel comfortable speaking with their managers about how they could be adapt to their menopausal symptoms.
Most women experience menopause around the age of 50, with symptoms that make labor extremely difficult. During menopause, women often have heavy periods, pain and hot flashes. Many women also report that they have trouble concentrating.
The survey results showed that 83% of women felt their work was affected.
While companies such as Future Super and Modibodi have found they can combat these issues with paid menstrual leave, other companies have taken a different approach.
Based in Sydney fintech company Spriggy found that fostering a culture where employees could take the time they needed without feeling pressured to disclose why worked better for them. According to company policy, personal leave can be used for all issues, not just illness, and can be withdrawn at the employee’s discretion. A female member of staff at the company told new.com.au she found this method more effective because personal leave means different things to different people.
“There’s such a fantastic environment of trust that if you have to take your personal time off, you take your personal time off,” she said.
“If you call your manager and say ‘today is not my day’ he will respect that.”
She pointed out that while employees could take personal time off for any reason, she didn’t think the company was turning away from those conversations.
“You choose to disclose how much you want, and the company trusts you to use it in a way that truly supports you.”
Spriggy’s method avoids some of the criticisms that have been leveled at menstrual leave policies. In particular, it undermines gender equality in the workplace by distinguishing between menstruating employees and non-menstruating employees.
Professor Marian Baird of the University of Sydney Business School said it remained to be seen whether menstruation-specific leave policies would prove to be a step forward for gender equality.
“On the one hand, there are those, including well-known feminists, who oppose it because it creates another potential reason for employers not to employ women,” she told News. .com.au.
“On the other hand, there’s growing evidence that it’s not only good for women, but also for productivity.”
Prof Baird said after years of trying to ensure women were treated the same as their male counterparts, period leave “made a difference”.
“I would be wary of policies that might give employers reasons not to, consciously or unconsciously, employ women,” she said.
However, she also pointed out that when maternity and paternity leave were first introduced, people opposed it.
Despite all these problems, Professor Baird fears that if employers do not somehow accommodate people with menstruation, those with particularly debilitating symptoms could drop out of the workforce.
“I think we are on the verge of a change; it’s a generational shift,” said Professor Baird.
“Young women are much more open about what is going on in their bodies. This taboo is disappearing.