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What’s the fuss around #FOP? Plenty, as India wakes up to the period leave policy

First day of period (FOP) pain has turned out to be a concern for companies, as two of them are now endorsing menstrual leave.

more lifestyle Updated: Jul 14, 2017 16:26 IST
Monika Rawal Kukreja
Monika Rawal Kukreja
Hindustan Times
Period Leave Policy,Culture Machine,Menstural Leave
Mumbai-based companies, Culture Machine and Gozoop , have opted for period leave policy for their female employees.

Taking their cue from nations such as South Korea, Italy, and Japan, where menstrual leave is a part of the leave policy in most companies, two Mumbai-based companies — Culture Machine and Gozoop — have decided to grant paid leave to their women employees on the first day of their period.

This sounds like a step towards empowering women with a better support structure at work, but understandably, not everyone thinks so.

Explaining the policy, Devleena S. Majumder, President of Human Resources at Culture Machine, tells us, “What we have recently introduced in our organisation is not just a policy but a gesture of support for all our women employees. [Also], as FOP cramps and pain are subjective in nature, the FOP leave is optional. This step relieves the person, preserves good cheer in the team, and is seen as a sensitive step from the organisation’s point of view.”

If this paves the way for more companies, especially those in metro cities, to follow suit, attitudes in the workforce won’t be uniformly supportive, as we figured by talking to HR professionals and general employees.

‘This is an enabler’

Praising the FOP leave, Shirin Saluja, a working professional says, “I don’t know how men will react, but I see it as a blessing if I don’t take my worst self to the office.”

Sanya Rawal, who works with a leading audit firm, feels that it’s important for everyone to become aware of the difficulties a woman may go through during her period. “At this time, adequate rest becomes a necessity for her to feel relaxed and rejuvenated.” Giving a woman more flexibility will “enable her to give more dedicated services to the business at large”, she adds.

‘Women getting too much’

A lot of men see FOP leave as women taking advantage of… well, being women. Strongly opposing what he calls a “weak” initiative, Kartik Dhar, consultant with a learning and development firm, demands to know who pays for the downtime when women co-workers are on such ‘special’ leave.

First day of period (FOP) cramps is a common phenomenon that most women face.

“Women have it easy in the professional world,” says a vehement Kartik. “When they’re away on a six-month-long maternity leave, men get nothing. The onus of the job falls on the male employees,” he adds. This is quite an outlandish claim, because nowhere in the world do all women go on maternity leave simultaneously, leaving the poor men to toil day and night. In almost every organisation, the surplus work (of the pregnant employee on leave) is equally divided among all other male and female staff.

Nevertheless, Kartik feels put upon at the thought of FOP leave. “And now this additional 4-5 days of downtime, over and above the allotted holidays, is another reason why women will not get hired,” he predicts, adding, “[Also], urban, employed, educated women are not as oppressed as they pretend to be, and I feel even if it’s paid leave for just a day, it still is too much. They should take a day off from their given set of leaves.”

‘No reverse discrimination, please’

HR personnel, too, stand divided on FOP leave. Shivani Bali Nagpal, HR staffer with a leading digital media house, says that she’s all for diversity and equality at work, but strictly on merit.

She says, “I’m certainly not up for any kind of reverse discrimination. I do feel Indian employers have to be gentle towards women, given the contextual history and background, but menstrual leave doesn’t cut the ice for me. Isn’t it fair to trust your employee, male or female, and allow them leave irrespective of the reason? Our focus should be on work-life integration with a lot of support, of course [with] stringent productivity benchmarks.”

‘Impact on productivity’

Another HR person in the acquisition department opines that in a scenario where they’re trying to increase the number of women employees, such a move comes as a setback. “In our company, we’re targeting a 3:2 female-to-male ratio by 2020, so such an initiative won’t prove to be a fruitful, as it’ll have a direct impact on overall productivity on days when female employees are not available,” says Pooja Bhandari, HR person with a renowned telecom company.

This might create a perception problem, too. Pooja adds, “Men may look at this as an undue advantage for women employees, as not all of them feel really sick on FOP. Every employee is entitled to sick leaves, which they can use whenever required. [Also] in the current scenario, where we talk about gender equality and giving women equal opportunities at higher level positions, this move doesn’t really fit the bill.”

‘It helps strike the right balance’

About the productivity concern, Sarung Subnani, an HR person with an online travel agency, feels that it won’t really be affected by FOP leave. “These days, employees do have work-from-home policy,” he points out, and giving a day’s leave for the right reason “helps strike the right work life balance too”. Moreover, he adds, “in most organisations, the gender ratio is unequal (meaning there are more men than women), hence there’s always adequate staffing and output won’t be impacted in a major way”.

In agreement, Devleena believes that productivity is a state of mind, “And thus, it’s not always essential for an individual to be present physically at their respective workplace,” she says.

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First Published: Jul 14, 2017 16:25 IST