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Menstrual Leave Policies


Recently, the Supreme Court refused to entertain a PIL about menstrual leave for workers and students across the country, calling it a policy matter. It highlighted that there were different “dimensions” to menstrual pain leave.


GS II: Polity and Governance

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What is menstrual leave?
  2. Arguments Against Menstrual Leave
  3. Global Menstrual Leave Policies
  4. Are attempts being made in India?

What is menstrual leave?

  • Menstrual leave refers to all policies that allow employees or students to take time off when they are experiencing menstrual pain or discomfort.
  • In the context of the workplace, it refers to policies that allow for both paid or unpaid leave, or time for rest.
  • More than half of those who menstruate experience pain for a couple of days a month; for some it is debilitating enough to hamper daily activities and productivity.
  • A 2017 survey of 32,748 women in the Netherlands published in the British Medical Journal found that 14% of them had taken time off from work or school during their periods.
  • The researchers estimated that employees lost around 8.9 days’ worth of productivity every year due to menstrual-cycle related issues.

Arguments Against Menstrual Leave:

  • Not necessary: Some people argue that menstrual leave is not necessary as women can manage their menstrual pain with over-the-counter pain relief medication.
  • Potential for discrimination: Others believe that menstrual leave may backfire and lead to employer discrimination against women. For example, employers may be less likely to hire women if they are required to grant menstrual leave, or may provide less opportunities for advancement to women who take menstrual leave.
  • Policy implications: There is a policy dimension to menstrual leave. Compelling employers to grant menstrual leave may operate as a de facto disincentive for employers to engage women in their establishments.

Global Menstrual Leave Policies:

  • Spain: On February 16, 2021, Spain became the first European country to grant paid menstrual leave to workers. Workers now have the right to three days of menstrual leave, which can be expanded to five days, per month.
  • Japan: Menstrual leave was introduced as part of Japan’s labour laws in 1947. Under Article 68, employers cannot ask women who experience difficult periods to work during that time.
  • Indonesia: Indonesia introduced a menstrual leave policy in 1948, amended in 2003, which states that workers experiencing menstrual pain are not obliged to work on the first two days of their cycle.
  • Philippines: In the Philippines, workers are permitted two days of menstrual leave per month.
  • Zambia: Zambia introduced one day of leave per month without needing a reason or a medical certificate, calling it a “Mother’s Day.”

These policies vary in the number of days granted, eligibility requirements, and whether the leave is paid or unpaid. However, they all recognize the impact of menstrual pain on women’s health and well-being, and aim to provide support and accommodations for workers who experience menstruation.

Are attempts being made in India?

  • Among State governments, Bihar and Kerala are the only ones to introduce menstrual leave to women.
  • The Bihar government, then headed by Lalu Prasad Yadav, introduced its menstrual leave policy in 1992, allowing employees two days of paid menstrual leave every month.
  • Recently, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan had announced that the State’s Higher Education department will now grant menstrual and maternity leaves for students in universities that function under the department.

-Source: The Hindu

November 2023