Menstrual Leave Policy In India: A Progressive Step Towards Women's Inclusion In The Workforce

Harsha Tripathi, Editorial Intern at Law Daily pursuing LL.B. from

Faculty of Law, University of Delhi.

Menstruation is a natural monthly occurrence in a woman's body. For some women, menstruation may be a painless process, but others suffer from severe disorders like PCOS, PCOD, and ovarian cysts. According to the Clinical Evidence Handbook, 20 per cent of women experience cramps, nausea, fever, and low levels of energy during the duration of their period. Girls are taught from a young age to cope with the agony and shame of periods, making it difficult to seek treatment when they are physically or mentally distressed. This is seen in women's daily lives in all settings, including the workplace.

The notion that working in such conditions is normal for women is anything but sensitive. Menstrual leave allows women to take a day or two off each month to relieve period cramps and other health issues associated with it.  Women should be provided mandatory menstruation leave in addition to any sick leave that is generally offered to employees. As sick leaves are specific in number and women generally end up using sick leaves for periods and are not left with any when they need them for sick days. So the idea is that sick days should be utilized for sick days, while period leaves should be used for periods. The lack of awareness around menstruation has always been a matter of concern. Despite recent debates about de-stigmatizing periods, period sensitivity still has a long way to go. 

The International Scenario Of The Menstrual Leave Policy  

The history of paid menstrual leaves can be traced back to the first world war. Soviet Russia brought up the idea of paid menstrual leaves for female employees. During the Second World War, Japan introduced a menstrual leave policy which was later codified in Japanese Law in 1947. Later on, other countries such as Indonesia and South Korea took certain steps in this direction. Countries such as Taiwan, Zambia, China, Italy, etc. are a few more that entitle female employees to a menstrual leave. Presently, Spain has introduced a draft bill offering a nationwide menstrual leave policy in the workplace. The bill proposes three sick days each month for women suffering from severe cramps during menstruation. 

Status in India

Labour laws, 2020 can be an example of how ignorant the Indian legislation can be about the pressing needs of women. There was no mention of any policy relating to menstrual leaves in the labour laws recently. The only time it was discussed in Parliament was when Ninong Ering, Member of Legislative Assembly [MLA] of Pasighat (West), Arunachal Pradesh, from the Indian National Congress, tabled the Menstruation Benefit Bill, 2017 as a private member's Bill in the Lok Sabha. The bill advocated the right to two days’ menstrual health leave for women at the workplace and sought to provide better facilities for rest at the workplace during menstruation. As per Section 4 of the Bill, every woman working at “any establishment registered with the appropriate Government” and any student in or above class VIII shall be provided with paid leave or leave from the school, as the case may be, for four days during her menstruation. Accompanied with overtime to those who wish not to avail it. Under Section 5 of the Bill, every woman employee “during her menstruation shall be entitled to thirty minutes of rest twice a day for not more than four days during menstruation in a month.” Although the bill was not passed. 

The Bihar government is a landmark in this realm. Since 1992, female employees have been entitled to two days of period leave. They are allowed to choose which two days of the month they want to take leaves without needing to justify their choice. 

Many companies in India have started taking positive steps toward menstrual leave policies in their workplace. The Mavericks, a management advisory company, has given its female employees the option of working from home for two days during their menstruation. Food delivery service Zomato recently introduced a period leave policy for its women and transgender employees. 

Arguments Against And The Need For A Menstrual Leave Policy

There are numerous arguments around the concept of not introducing a Menstrual leave policy in India. First, the argument is that it would induce an idea of women being a burden to organizations and deepen the patriarchal biases around women's vulnerabilities. Subsequently, creating a hiring bias against women and excluding them from work opportunities. However, giving in to this bias would defeat the whole purpose of propagating a gender-inclusive work environment. We live in a society with diverse human beings with specific needs. A workplace should be mindful of the needs of its workers whether they are female or male.  

Second, it would become a way for women to misuse these leaves. Questioning women whether they need menstrual leave is very indifferent to their experiences. Women must have a right to self-perception of their Menstruation. 

Third, the belief that most women can function even during their periods and in cases where they experience severe symptoms, sick day leave can be obtained. It is insensitive to assume that every woman can function without any discomfort or pain because some women do not experience severe symptoms and can work in that condition. 

Fourth, the claim that the menstrual leave policy is unconstitutional and discriminatory. Article 15 of the constitution,  puts a  bar on discrimination only on grounds of sex, however, clause 3 of the Article authorizes the state to make any special provision for women.  

The Directive Principles of State Policy of the constitution provides for directions to make laws for the welfare of women. As per Article 39(a), the State policy needs to secure “the health and strength of workers, men, and women”. Under Article 42, the state is mandated to “make provision for securing just and humane conditions of work and for maternity relief.” Article 47 states, “Duty of the State to raise the level of nutrition and the standard of living and to improve public health.” The provisions of our Constitution makes it a  responsibility of the state to make laws that take into consideration any special needs that require attention. Thus, the argument in itself is illogical. 


This is a critical point to recognize that providing menstrual leaves to women is a step toward destigmatising menstruation and the shame and taboo that comes with it. It will establish a gender-sensitive work environment for women, encouraging them to enter the workforce. Rather than expecting women to conform to the idea of a workplace that is not inclusive of their requirements and caters more toward men, the focus should be on transforming the workplace according to the needs of all employees. 

Views expressed are the author’s own, 

Law Daily neither endorses nor is responsible for them.

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