Menstrual leave

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Menstrual leave is a type of leave where a person may have the option to take paid or unpaid leave from their employment if they are menstruating and are unable to go to work because of this.[1][2] Throughout its history, menstrual leave has been associated with controversy and discrimination against men, with very few countries enacting policies. In these countries, menstrual leave is still associated with low uptake.[1] It is seen by some as a criticism of women's work efficiency or as sexism[3][4][5] against men. Supporters of menstrual leave policies compare its function to that of maternity leave and view it as a promoter of gender equality.[6]


Some women experience a condition called dysmenorrhea that causes pain during menstruation.[7] Up to 90% of women do not experience problems sufficient to disrupt daily functioning as a result of menstruation, although they may report having some issues prior to menstruation. Symptoms interfere with normal life, qualifying as premenstrual syndrome, in 20–30% of women. In 3–8%, symptoms are severe.[8] Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) is a severe and disabling form of premenstrual syndrome affecting 1.8–5.8% of menstruating women.[9]


A menstrual leave policy was first applied in some job sectors in post-Revolutionary Russia at the turn of the 20th century. However, because of the resulting discrimination against female workers, the policy was removed in 1927.[1]

A girls' school in the south Indian state of Kerala had granted its students menstrual leave as early as 1912.[10]

In the 1920s, Japanese labor unions started to demand leave (seiri kyuka) for their female workers. In 1947, a law was brought into force by the Japanese Labor Standards that allowed menstruating women to take days off work. Debate continues as to whether it is a medical necessity or a discriminatory measure.[11][12][13]


There is a stigma related to menstrual leave. According to Levitt and Barnack-Tavlaris (2020), it may perpetuate stereotypes and further the medicalization of menstruation.[2] Taking leave may require telling managers who are males about something the woman believes to be a personal issue. It may portray women as less able than men and could, therefore, lead to further discrimination against women. One suggestion to remove the stigma is to provide additional medical leave for people of all genders.[14]

By region[edit]


In Indonesia, under the Labor Act No. 13 in 2003, women have a right to two days of menstrual leave per month, though these are not additional leaves.[15]

In Japan, since 1947, Article 68 of the Labour Standards Law states "When a woman for whom work during menstrual periods would be specially difficult has requested leave, the employer shall not employ such woman on days of the menstrual period."[16][17] While Japanese law requires that a woman going through especially difficult menstruation be allowed to take leave, it does not require companies to provide paid leave or extra pay for women who choose to work during menstruation.

In South Korea, female employees are entitled to menstrual leave according to Article 71 of the Labour Standards Law,[18] and are ensured additional pay if they do not take the menstrual leave that they are entitled to.[19]

In Taiwan, the Act of Gender Equality in Employment[20] gives women three days of "menstrual leave" per year, which will not be calculated toward the 30 days of "common sick leave", giving women up to 33 days of "health-related leaves" per year. The extra three days do not come with half-pays once a woman employee exceeds the regulated 30.[21]


In Europe, as of 2023, there was one country, Spain, with national menstrual leave.[1][22] Since February 2023, Spain has provided three to five days per month of paid menstrual leave.[22]

A proposal by the Italian Parliament to introduce a menstrual leave policy in 2017 sparked debate in Europe on how menstrual health impacts women in the workforce. The bill would have introduced a policy for companies to offer three days paid leave to women who suffer severe menstrual cramps; the policy was not enacted.[1]


In Zambia, as of 2015, women are legally entitled to a day off each month due to their menstrual leave policy, known as "Mother's Day".[23] If a woman employee is denied this entitlement, she can rightfully prosecute her employer.

Corporate policies[edit]

Coexist, a Bristol community interest firm, introduced a "period policy" in order to give women more flexibility and a healthier work environment. Hoping to break down the menstruation taboo, Coexist became the first company in the United Kingdom to implement this policy.[24]

Nike has been widely reported as supporting menstrual leave wherever it operates, but this policy was misrepresented by the media; Nike follows the local labor laws where it operates.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e f King S. (2021) Menstrual Leave: Good Intention, Poor Solution. In: Hassard J., Torres L.D. (eds) Aligning Perspectives in Gender Mainstreaming. Aligning Perspectives on Health, Safety and Well-Being. Springer, Cham. doi:10.1007/978-3-030-53269-7_9 “The code's reference to menstrual leave was misinterpreted by the media as meaning 'all female NIKE employees are entitled to paid time off work for menstruation' (e.g. Shipley, 2016).”
  2. ^ a b Levitt RA, Barnack-Tavlaris JL (2020). "Chapter 43: Addressing Menstruation in the Workplace: The Menstrual Leave Debate". In Bobel C, Winkler IG, Fahs B, Hasson KA, Kissling EA, Roberts T (eds.). The Palgrave Handbook of Critical Menstruation Studies. Palgrave Macmillan. doi:10.1007/978-981-15-0614-7_43. ISBN 978-981-15-0614-7. PMID 33347190. S2CID 226619907.
  3. ^ Iuliano, Sarah (4 August 2013). "Menstrual leave: delightful or discriminatory?". 5 August 2013. Lip Magazine. Retrieved 3 January 2014.
  4. ^ Price, Catherine (11 October 2006). "Should women get paid menstruation leave?". Salon. Retrieved 3 January 2014.
  5. ^ "Italy debates paid 'menstrual leave' but experts warn it could increase gender bias at work". Global News.
  6. ^ "Policy Brief: Women and Menstruation in the EU". Eurohealth. 2018-03-07. Retrieved 2019-03-26.
  7. ^ Khan, Khalid; Champaneria, Rita; Latthe, Pallavi (2012-02-15). "Dysmenorrhea". American Family Physician. 85 (4): 386–387. ISSN 0002-838X.
  8. ^ Biggs WS, Demuth RH (October 2011). "Premenstrual syndrome and premenstrual dysphoric disorder". American Family Physician. 84 (8): 918–24. PMID 22010771.
  9. ^ Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (5th ed.). Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Association. 2013. p. 625.4. Code: 625.4 (N94.3)
  10. ^ "A Kerala School Granted Period Leave 105 Years Ago". NDTV. 20 August 2017. Retrieved 20 August 2017.
  11. ^ JSTOR (1995). "Japan's 1986 Equal Employment Opportunity Law and the Changing Discourse on Gender". Signs. 20 (2): 268–302. doi:10.1086/494975. JSTOR 3174950. S2CID 144396195.
  12. ^ Matchar, Emily (May 16, 2014). "Should Paid 'Menstrual Leave' Be a Thing?". The Atlantic.
  13. ^ Lampen, Claire. "Can 'period leave' ever work?".
  14. ^ Julia Hollingsworth. "Should women be entitled to period leave? These countries think so". CNN. Retrieved 2020-11-22.
  15. ^ Govt. of Indonesia. "Labour Act". Archived from the original on 2011-10-04.
  16. ^ International Labour Organization. "National Labour Law Profile: Japan".
  17. ^ asianfoodworker. "Comparison of the Japanese Laws and Model CBA of UI ZENSEN on Maternity Protection" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2007-06-26. Retrieved 2011-06-13.
  18. ^ International Labour Organization. "National Labour Law Profile: Japan".
  19. ^ joongangdaily. "Once again, court orders menstrual leave payout".
  20. ^ "Law Source Retrieving System Labor Laws And Regulations-Act of Gender Equality in Employment(103.12.11)". Retrieved 2022-09-12.
  21. ^ The China Post. "Gender equality in employment act revised".
  22. ^ a b Masih, Niha (2023-02-17). "Need time off work for period pain? These countries offer 'menstrual leave.'". Washington Post. Retrieved 2023-02-24.
  23. ^ "The country where all women get time off for being on their period". The Independent. 2017-01-04. Archived from the original on 2022-05-12. Retrieved 2019-03-31.
  24. ^ "A company is giving its female staff 'period leave'". The Independent. 2016-03-01. Archived from the original on 2022-05-12. Retrieved 2019-03-31.

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