HK Magazine Archive

Women Petition for Menstrual Leave Ahead of International Women's Day

Should the potential of severe menstrual cramps get you a day out of the office?

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 08 March, 2016, 5:57pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 19 October, 2016, 4:59pm

On the eve of International Women’s Day on March 8, weeping emoticon-dressed members of the Hong Kong Association for Democracy and People's Livelihood (ADPL) petitioned the Hong Kong government to introduce a monthly, one-day menstrual leave, starting with civil servants. The ADPL says that for some women, menstrual pain can be so overpowering that it renders them incapable of effectively working.

ADPL Chairwoman Rosanda Mok pointed out that requiring women to produce medical certificates when they need to take leave due to menstrual pain would only add to their financial burden. “Many women end up suffering in silence, or resort to taking painkillers, which could be harmful in the long run,” Mok says. Describing the introduction of menstrual leave as “an act of encouragement” to women, Mok expressed confidence that the implementation of a menstrual leave policy would boost the morale of working women and improve their productiveness.

To other women in Asia, menstrual leave is hardly news. In China, Anhui province instituted a menstrual leave policy which came into effect earlier this month. Female workers in the province can apply for one to two days off work if they have documentation from recognized healthcare providers. The policy was also implemented in Hainan and Hubei in 1993 and 2009 respectively. Across Asia, other countries that have laws in place for menstrual leave include Japan, Taiwan, South Korea and Indonesia.

So, how feasible is menstrual leave? Alexa Chow, managing director of Centaline Human Resources Consultants Limited, is concerned that menstrual leave might be abused by employees who feel entitled to time off during their periods, even when they don’t need it. “Some women experience no pain at all when menstruating. Others, for example, menopausal women, may have irregular menstrual cycles that result in bleeding and discomfort several times a month. It’s not about feasibility—it’s a question of whether menstrual leave should be introduced at all.”

When approached for comment, a spokesman for the Civil Service Bureau replied that "The Government cares about the health and well-being of civil servants. At this stage, we believe the current sick leave entitlements of civil servants are sufficient to meet their relevant needs." It said that it would continue to communicate with its staff to improve their well-being.