Introduce Paid Menstrual Leave in Malaysia
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Amongst the workforce, there are those who menstruate regularly. For some, periods might be a minor inconvenience, but for many others this natural cycle can mean constant disruption to their daily lives, including having to face excruciating pain and other negative symptoms. Studies have shown that period pain is common among those who menstruate, the Women’s Health Concern found that around 80% of women will experience period pain at some point.
Primary dysmenorrhea is the most common kind of period pain and affects a lot of those who menstruate. The symptom is a throbbing, cramping pain in the lower abdomen. Others who menstruate may have secondary dysmenorrhea, which is caused by conditions affecting the uterus and other reproductive organs, such as uterine fibroids and endometriosis. Most doctors would only prescribe them painkillers.
Though painkillers are effective in dulling the pain slightly for a temporary time, it usually does not get rid of the pain altogether and does not prevent the other symptoms of periods from surfacing. Other symptoms include, but are not limited to: nausea, vomiting, fainting spells, diarrhoea, cold sweats, fatigue, lower back pain, headaches, bloating, tender breasts, muscle aches, muscle cramps, joint pain, constipation, trouble sleeping and general discomfort.
Many of those who menstruate have to withstand the painful periods and other symptoms as described above while working. All this in no way invalidates a person who menstruates’ capability to work. Most of those who menstruate still go to work despite being in severe pain and discomfort. However, this may affect their health. When an employee is unwell, sick leave may be taken since it is inhumane to force a person who is sick and in pain to work. This practice should be extended to those on their periods.
Therefore, at least one day per month of menstrual leave should be allowed by employers, so that those menstruating can be at home, to rest and recover. It should be distinct from sick leave because menstruation is a monthly occurrence. Due to the fact that most paid sick leaves are typically only 1 to 2 days per month, this puts those who menstruate at a disadvantage because of their involuntary added afflictions which their non-menstruating counterparts do not have to endure each month. Thus, they use their sick leave to help cope with menstrual pain which prevents them from taking leave for when they fall ill.
It cannot be said that offering menstrual leave is an impossible and unheard of policy. There are several countries that offer some form of menstrual leave to their female workforce, namely: Japan (Article 68 of the Labour Standards Law), Indonesia (Manpower Act No. 13 of 2003, Article 81), South Korea (Labour Standards Act, Article 73), and Taiwan (Labour Act of Gender Equality in Employment, Article 14).
If we were to look at it from an economic viewpoint, offering paid menstrual leave in Malaysia is highly beneficial. According to the 2018 Global Gender Gap report, Malaysia ranks 84th out of 149 countries in terms of economic participation and opportunity for women. The Department of Statistics of Malaysia found that in the second quarter of 2019 women make up only 39.1% of the workforce. Why are these statistics important? The economic growth of a country is tied to the number of women in its workforce. This means that in order for Malaysia to reach its economic development goals, more women have to be encouraged to enter the workforce. However, it is a difficult task to encourage women to enter a workforce that does not take into consideration their health and wellbeing.
Therefore, to ensure the health and wellbeing of those in the workforce who menstruate, and that more women enter the workforce in order to boost our economy, we humbly request that you, in your capacity as the Minister of Human Resources of Malaysia, make it compulsory for all employers to offer at least one day of paid menstrual leave to their employees.
Thank you. Organized by, Red Talks, in collaboration with, dearHER.
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