Paid Leave for Periods Ignites Concerns of Gender Bias While Hiring

Several countries such as South Korea, Taiwan and Japan are already familiar with the concept of period leave. However, it’s rather surprising that most other countries in the world do not have this concept, or is it? Recently, an organisation in India introduced paid period leave for its female and transgender employees, and a few more companies followed suit. Thus kicking-off the debate on whether women need this type of leave or not.

The move to give female employees paid leave during those days of the month when they’re in pain and discomfort was mostly lauded, no doubt about that. But on the contrary, a few experts, including women’s rights activists, also criticised the move. They thought that women do not need special privileges. 

Women have come a long way in the workplace, breaking barriers to get to where they currently are. All of this has come about with absolutely no special privileges, only hard work and the shattering of established social norms. Hence, it was felt that while this is a move forward for women in the workplace, it is also ten steps backwards into the regressive state of affairs women have just broken out of.

To add to the debate of whether women need to take leave on their period, came the extremely valid point of gender bias when it comes to the process of hiring in an organisation. If period leave was to become popular, and if other companies begin to implement it with the fear of being left behind, won’t the overall gender bias and resulting gender disparity increase? 

At present, the gender disparity in economic participation by women is very high in India as compared to other countries across the globe. India struggles to maintain a gender balance in the corporate world as well. There have been several norms implemented by the government to facilitate the participation of women in government bodies, the board of directors of companies, etc. Hence, a leave policy encompassing all women in its purview will only widen the gap rather than inhibit it.

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Having to pay women for those extra days off, in addition to their other leave such as sick leave, will soon deter organisations from employing women. The higher costs a company may end up incurring in granting extra days off may be used to justify lower pay packages to women. Overall, it would counter the progression being made over the years, to bring women up to a state of equality with men. 

To conclude, period leave is a move announced with good intent. However, instead of having a standard leave policy that differentiates out women, maybe an implied policy left to the discretion of the organisation can be in place. Good middle ground would be if a woman suffering from menstrual pain is allowed to freely tell her reporting manager and take the day off if she needs to. And this would be apart from her sick leave, of course. A work from home option, if possible in her line of work, would also be a good compromise.

While women need equality in choices, inequalities in biological differences still exist. Men and women may be equal, yet they are anatomically unequal. Not every woman may need the time off, but for those women who do go through this struggle each month, they need to know that their organisation does have their back. 

For any clarifications/feedback on the topic, please contact the writer at athena.rebello@cleartax.in

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