If you’re one of the millions of people around the world who suffer incapacitating menstrual symptoms, this new policy proposed by the Italian government may get your attention.
The Italian parliament is discussing legislating a requirement that companies must offer three days of paid leave to its female employees every month.
The menstrual leave policy would allow women to stay home when their period symptoms are at their worst — and still get paid.
Menstrual leave is not as radical as it sounds.
Several Asian countries are already on board with the idea and have laws in place dating back decades.
Are Menstrual Leave Policies a Good Idea?
At first glance, menstrual leave policies seem like the best idea ever.
But are they?
Many people who struggle with painful periods frequently face a dilemma: stay home and risk lost wages or go to work clutching a bottle of ibuprofen and hope for the best.
It seems like a workplace period policy would make that decision easy, but there are some potential drawbacks.
Fortune’s Claire Zillman says, “asking employers to specifically accommodate women’s most mundane biological attribute — while helpful to those who suffer severe pain — seems overall like a retrograde request, especially considering how far women have come without it.”
Other critics say such laws fundamentally undermine women.
“Whether or not it’s intentional, the very idea of ‘menstrual leave’ signals that women in some way lose control of their ability to combat the pain and hormonal changes accompanying their natural cycle,” says The Blaze’s Tré Goins-Phillips.
Still others say it could lead to organizations hiring fewer women.
Furthermore, enforcing menstrual leave policies can be awkward for everyone involved.
How many of us want to announce to our boss and everyone we work with, “Hey, guess what? I’ll be home today nursing my cramps and indulging my chocolate cravings because I’ve got my period!”
Menstrual leave policies may also make things uncomfortable for transgender employees or workers with atypical reproductive medical issues.
Companies or countries that introduce period policies may mean well but, in the end, might not be as helpful as intended.
Managing Your Period At Work
There are currently no U.S. laws requiring employers to offer menstrual leave to its employees, although Oregon-based Nike, Inc. does provide it “in countries where this benefit is protected under local law.”
It’s unlikely U.S. workers will see this particular benefit required in the workplace anytime soon — if ever.
If you struggle with how to manage your period at work, here are some tips to make things a little easier.
1. Weaponize Your Work Bag
Keep a few supplies with you whether you think you need them anytime soon or not — and don’t forget the ibuprofen.
(Bonus: you’re always ready to bail out a co-worker who gets caught, well, empty-handed.)
2. Exercise Your Flex Time
If your employer allows you to work from home, arrange your schedule to accommodate days when you may need to stay attached to a heating pad or hot water bottle.
3. Take a Sick Day
If you’ve got paid time off, use it. Menstrual symptoms are just as legitimate a reason to stay home as a fever or wrenched back.
You’re no good to your team if you’re not operating at peak capacity so stay home and get well.
4. Enlist Support From Your Squad
If you absolutely must go to work, lean on a couple of trusted colleagues to commiserate with you. Whispering “cramps” to another woman is usually all it takes to elicit a knowing wince and a sympathetic word.
Your Turn: Should organizations offer menstrual leave to workers?
Lisa McGreevy is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. She loves learning about creative or interesting work policies and benefits. Look her up on Twitter @lisah if you’ve got something to share.