Period- and leak-proof underwear brand Modibodi’s recent decision to provide an additional 10 days of paid personal leave per year for menstruation, menopause or miscarriage has prompted many companies to consider whether or not their leave policies go far enough.
In addition to traditional ‘sick leave’ entitlements, Modibodi employees who suffer a miscarriage or experience menstrual or menopause symptoms that interfere with their ability to work can avail of this additional paid leave.
“We’re giving employees the option to take paid leave days for either menstruation or menopause, or to choose to work from home during days when they’re feeling discomfort,” Modibodi CEO and founder Kristy Chong said in a statement.
“We want our staff to be able to be honest about their experiences of menstruation, menopause and miscarriage by encouraging people to feel comfortable asking for support and understanding when they need it.”
Modibodi is hopeful that the move will help break taboos and drive more honest conversations in the workplace.
While there are no legal requirements in Australia to provide additional leave for such issues, more and more companies are opting to do so.
Last month, buy now, pay later company Zip introduced two weeks’ bereavement leave for employees who suffer a miscarriage. The move stemmed from the passing of legislation in New Zealand allowing citizens the right to three days of paid miscarriage leave.
India is believed to be the only other country with similar legislation on miscarriage leave. India food delivery giant Zomato went a step further last year, introducing 10 days of paid menstrual leave as part of efforts to provide a more inclusive culture.
“We want to foster a culture of trust, truth and acceptance,” Zomato founder and chief Deepinder Goyal said in a note to employees.
“There shouldn’t be any shame or stigma attached to applying for a period leave. You should feel free to tell people on internal groups, or emails, that you are on your period leave for the day.”
South Korea, Indonesia, Taiwan and Zambia all offer paid menstrual leave. But recent events show that there’s still work to be done. Last month, former CEO of South Korean airline Asiana Airlines, Kim Soo-Cheon, was fined almost $1,800 for refusing 138 employee requests for menstrual leave between 2014 and 2015, according to BBC News.
A strain for some businesses
Karen Gately, an HR specialist and founder of Corporate Dojo, told Inside Retail that jobseekers are likely to factor in this kind of support when looking for a job.
“Prospective employees are looking for an organisation with a culture that is based on trust and respect … if an employer can provide leave for people who have battles around these issues, then I’m sure that that would be well received and very much appreciated,” she said.
But she’s quick to add that not all businesses can afford to do so, particularly small businesses.
“There’s only so much many employers can afford to do to support people. But clearly, irrespective of the size of an organisation, they need to be reasonable and make decisions based on fairness to both the business and individuals. If somebody has experienced something as traumatic as a miscarriage, then integrity would suggest that they should be kind enough to allow some time off around that.”
Gately also harbours concerns that pressure to offer additional leave for issues around menstruation, menopause and miscarriage could impact companies’ hiring decisions, even though gender-based discrimination is illegal.
“Whilst it is entirely inappropriate and illegal to discriminate on the basis of gender, my concern would also be that if we have too many obligations on employers to support women’s health issues in particular, some employers will just give employees more reasons to avoid hiring women,” she said.
“If we’re going to start to provide leave supporting specific women’s issues, then what does that say for what we’re willing to do, in turn, for men.”
Gately suggests a flexible approach where employers offer workers access to additional personal or sick leave in advance if they do not have enough accrued.