Period Leaves In Singapore

Menstruation: a monthly cycle that most women have to brave through for majority of their lives. However, as normal of a biological process it is, many women still feel the need to shy away from talking about their experiences due to the lack of awareness in society. 

Having a painful menstrual cycle can often lead to many workplace troubles like poor attention span, lack of focus and even increased social anxiety. Taking time off to alleviate period pain should be normalised and one way to do that? Period leaves, which are already the norm in countries like South Korea, Taiwan and Japan.

We spoke to 7 women to share their experiences of having period pain at the workplace, and why they think period leaves should also exist in Singapore.

Some names have been altered to protect the identities of our interviewees.

1. “The pain felt during a women’s period shouldn’t be invalidated”

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“I’ve had personal experiences where I feared judgement for taking time off, especially if my supervisor is a man.

I believe that period leaves should be implemented as studies state that period cramps can be as painful as a heart attack — and we sure don’t see people working through a heart attack. Also, working while you’re in pain will cause your productivity rate to drop. Implementing these policies will ensure that women can work without putting their health at risk.

It is not right to invalidate the pain felt by women during their period by saying they do not require leave. Periods are a biological process that occurs to women regardless of whether they want it, so providing leave for women who feel like they aren’t able to do work due to severe pain is a reasonable action.”

— Aminah, 19

2. “We should be given the option to choose work arrangements during our period”

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“I get major period pain that is terrible on the first day. I get bloated, start cramping and have the urge to go to the toilet. I’ve even come close to passing out on several occasions upon physical exertion and need to take painkillers. 

I think women deserve to excuse themselves from work if they suffer from chronic menstrual cramps or fatigue. They should be given a choice of taking a rest. Not to mention, I have IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) on top of my monthly cycle, which further aggravates my symptoms. 

Perhaps apart from implementing period leaves, I feel that it’s also reasonable to allow ladies to work from home when they’re on their period. Giving women flexibility is employee welfare and will reflect well on the organisation. 

There is a possibility that some women might see this as an opportunity to skive off and take leave, regardless of whether they’re really on their period or not. However, that should not be an issue under a stringent hiring process.”

— Hannah, 23

3. “Women should be allowed to rest when their condition to work is compromised”

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“Similar to how employees are allowed to take MCs when sick, women should be allowed to rest when their condition to work is compromised.

Allowing women to take leave will help them recuperate, increasing their productivity when they return to work rested and recharged. There is also the plus point of improving employee welfare and mental health. The duration of the leave doesn’t have to be too drastic; it is understood that employers still value efficiency.

I recognise that Singapore, a very output-driven society, may have difficulties implementing this kind of policy. It may also be challenging to manage and account for every female employee’s period leave days, but encouraging the workplace to keep an open mind to these ideas would be a good start.”

— Sayumi, 19

Also read:

This Initiative Is Offering Free Period Pantry Kits & Aims To Raise Awareness On Workplace Period Shaming

Having a painful menstrual cycle can often lead to many workplace troubles like poor attention span, lack of focus and even increased social anxiety

4. “We should not have to be ashamed of needing rest because of period pain”

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“There is a fear that my colleagues or boss might have a bad impression of me because I want to take leave due to my period pain. I don’t want them to think that I am just trying to get out of work for “no good reason”. 

Women shouldn’t need to hide their period pain while they try to work and get through the day. I think period leaves should be implemented so that we can take away the stigma and invisible restriction on women, and provide them with the rights to be able to rest when they need to.”

— J, early 20s

5. “It steers away from any unwanted feeling of being judged”

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“As a woman, I still have to work through the immense pain that I feel when on my period. I find that my performance is often not up to standard as my focus at work is constantly being disrupted.

I choose to continue working instead of taking leave as my boss and coworkers might not be too happy about it. In fact, I feel even more stressed out when I take regular leaves just for my period.

I think period leaves are something that should be considered as it steers away from any unwanted feeling of being judged. In fact, it might encourage women to work even harder out of appreciation for understanding our needs.”

— Hope, mid-30s

6. “It can boost morale and increase productivity rates”

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“When I’m on my period, my symptoms are the worst. I get headaches, body aches, abdominal cramps occasionally and feel so lethargic to the point where I can’t do anything but lie in bed. I’ve even gotten a fever a few times due to menstruating.

Making period leaves mandatory in companies nationwide will definitely take time, but in the meantime, I feel that employers should be understanding if women want to take time off due to their periods. After all, allowing women to take a break while they’re experiencing period pains can boost morale and increase productivity rates — I see that as a win-win situation.”

— Chelsea, 19

7. “The fear of misuse shouldn’t deter us from period leaves”

“I see how implementing additional leaves catering for period pain can be abused and used as an excuse for women to take it easy and skive off work, but I also feel that we shouldn’t be too quick to judge. Sure, there is no clear indication of whether the pain a woman is experiencing is exactly as she describes it to be, but we should still give them the benefit of the doubt.

Think about how many women we would be helping every month if period leaves were implemented — that number would far outweigh the minority of people who’d take advantage of the extra off days.”

— K, 24

Implementing Period Leaves In Singapore Will Help Destigmatise Menstruation Matters

Regardless of whether you’ve experienced having a period before, pain is not something that one should suffer through silently. 

From the responses gathered from these 7 women, it is clear that period stigma is prevalent in the workplace, and many are still intimidated of being judged for voicing out about the discomfort that they are feeling during a natural human process.

Though it may take some time for Singapore to even consider the possibility of implementing period leaves, we can do our part to spread awareness by not shunning away from conversations about the topic.

Responses have been edited for brevity and clarity.
Cover: Source, source

Also read:

This Local Company Offers Period Care Kits & Sanitary Pad Subscriptions To Help Women Embrace Menstruation