Can Paid Menstrual Leave Work Against Gender Parity?
Earlier this week, Lok Sabha Member of Parliament Ninong Ering moved a private member’s bill seeking two days of paid menstrual leave every month for women employees in government institutions. The Menstruation Benefit Bill, 2017 asks for compulsory leave, 30-minute breaks twice a day during four days of menstruation and overtime for women who choose to not avail for this leave.
Most Indian companies provide 12 days of casual leave per year, often used when an employee is unwell. But MP Ninong Ering thinks this is just not enough. “It is just a question of two days,” says the lawmaker from Arunachal Pradesh “What happens when she is down with flu or viral fever,” he asks.
While private member’s bills rarely become law, this particular proposal has sparked a heated debate on whether menstrual leave should be implemented.
More than 50 percent of the respondents to BloombergQuint’s Twitter poll said they were in favour of menstrual leave.
But Sonal Arora, vice-president at human resource firm TeamLease finds the proposal problematic. “I am not sure if giving a blanket two day leave will be taken well” she says. Demand for additional leave for female employees, according to her, may work against gender parity at the workplace and dissuade companies from hiring women in the first place.
There will probably be an unconscious bias against hiring women in the first place and companies may not acknowledge it but it will come in.Sonal Arora, Vice-President, TeamLease Services
“I don’t think menstruation is an illness,” says Women’s Rights Activist Ranjana Kumari. The government should instead focus on addressing a long standing demand to reduce the Goods and Services Tax on sanitary napkins and invest in menstrual hygiene and health.
If we provide good nutrition to any robust, healthy body, such an issue will not rise. We must invest in menstrual health, hygiene, awareness.Ranjana Kumari, Director, Center For Social Research
Watch the full conversation with Ranjana Kumari and Sonal Arora.