Picture this: it’s that time of the month, your back aches every time you stand, your cramps are nauseating, and you’re an hour away from having to be a functioning human in the office.
There’s nothing more daunting than dealing with debilitating period symptoms while needing to be productive, especially when all your body is begging for is rest. All you want to do is strap yourself to a heating pad and brace for impact, but you’re not quite sure how to ask for menstrual leave—or if you’re even allowed to.
In desperation, many find themselves googling how to make your period end faster naturally as a means to getting to the other side, though truthfully, your menstrual cycle is your body’s natural processing and shouldn’t be rushed nor abruptly cut short. Instead, it should be understood that period PTO is crucial for employees to feel safe, cared for, and ultimately, operate at their most efficient.
The good news is, you’re most certainly not the first to wonder, “can you call off work for menstrual cramps?” The conversation has made its way into politics, becoming a staple in the argument against workplace gender discrimination. In fact, more and more companies are falling in line around the world, offering paid period time off despite no federally mandated policy. Even a few US brands are beginning to follow suit. Software company Nuvento allots staff one paid day of period leave per month, while astrology company Chani offers “unlimited menstrual leave for people with uteruses.”
Why Menstrual Leave Is Important
It's as simple as this: menstruation pain should be treated like any other kind of pain. More than 90 percent of people who menstruate experience disruptive PMS to some degree, ranging from manageable to severe. Common symptoms include:
- Abdominal cramps
- Swollen breasts
- Mood swings
- Lower back pain
While those struggling with disorders like pelvic inflammatory disease, endometriosis, fibroids, and others experience these symptoms, they can be coupled with even graver circumstances. More severe period symptoms include:
- Diarrhea and constipation
- Suicidal thoughts
- Pelvic pain
Paid Period Leave Initiatives Are Already Working
As for which countries have menstrual leave, there are certainly some ahead of the curve: China, Zambia, Mexico, and Indonesia all have national menstrual leave policies. Spain has become the first European country to make paid menstrual leave lawful, and companies like Canada’s Diva Cup, Australia’s Modibodi, and India’s Zomato all offer period PTO. Coexist, a nonprofit firm in the UK, became among the first to publicly instate a period policy in 2016, while Japan adopted menstrual leave measures in WWII. It’s also a cost effective employee perk, since letting menstruating workers rest rather than push through their pain only costs employers an average of 45 cents per hour, per employee.
When it comes to menstrual leave pros and cons, the benefits certainly outweigh the disadvantages. While it may lead to potential sexism in the workplace, documented positives to period PTO include:
- Increased productivity
- Boosted morale
- Menstruation de-stigmatization
- Increased company loyalty
- Reserving medical leave for non-menstrual health conditions
So, How Do I Take Time Off Work For My Period?
It probably didn’t take much convincing that menstrual leave is a good idea. Now, how will you get your boss on board?
For starters, it's important to verify whether or not period leave is already offered by asking your human resources department for a copy of the sick leave policy.
If it isn't, providing employers with the stats and data that speak to the severity of menstrual pain, as well as menstrual PTO benefits like increase in annual productivity, can open important dialogue and advocate for your uterus. When a friend revealed to him how excruciating her periods can be, Adam Garcia, owner of The Stock Dork, decided to create a paid menstrual leave policy for his company. Sometimes, simply raising awareness can be half of the work.
If taking a digital step towards an in-person meeting feels right, here’s an email template to help you build the bones of your sick day email:
Hi [ ],
I am requesting to take time off due to [debilitating menstrual symptoms, dysmenorrhea, etc.]
As these symptoms are a monthly occurrence, I’d love to discuss with you the possibility of exploring paid menstrual leave. With more and more companies integrating it into their policies, there is data that supports benefits such as increased productivity, boosted morale, and increased company loyalty.
Thank you for your consideration and I look forward to discussing further.
You can also share resources like this guide on how to effectively integrate menstrual leave into company policy, which highlights just how easy the transition can truly be.
And remember: all major change begins with a tiny seed! Conversations like these not only advocate for you, but for every person with a uterus in the workplace. You got this!