FOP Leave: From ‘Period Shaming’ to ‘Period Friendly’ in corporates!

That time of the month | Periods|
Periods| FOP Leave| VK Blog

PERIODS, PAINS, PMS, PADS & POWER!

When I had joined SmartQ, my HR introduced me to a very unique kind of leave, a leave solely and particularly for women- the First Day of Periods Leave, which allowed the female employees to stay back at home, taking care of themselves, without having to struggle with the excruciating pain and the fear of staining.
Since it was something very new, I remember telling every person I had met about it, and till today I have been boasting to people about SmartQ’s Policy of FOP and wanted to spread the word across all corners of the corporate world, just then when I was asked to prepare a blog on First Day of Periods Leave, I thought that it is now that I can tell and aware people from my end the need and the importance of this leave.

WHAT ARE PERIODS?

Periods, or more prevalent menstruation, is the natural and biological way of releasing tissues from a woman’s body every month that are no longer needed.
When a girl hits her puberty, typically between the age of 11–14years, her body gets prepared for pregnancy while releasing eggs alternately from either of the ovaries. And when the eggs do not fertilize, the estrogen and the progesterone levels fall, causing the uterus to shed its lining along with blood out of the body. This is what we term menstruation.
It is that time of the month when a woman shows various sides of her emotions- happiness, sadness, agitation, grumpiness, tiredness and so many more, all put together and most of the time with less or no control of it.

PERIOD PAINS AND PMS…

The estrogen and progesterone level in a woman’s body play a very important role in regulating the menstrual cycle and the fluctuation of these hormones inside the system of a woman’s body creates unprecedented chaos and that is exactly from where PMS or premenstrual syndrome comes into being.
Most women aren’t the lucky ones to have a smooth flow of menstruation but a series of symptoms that keep recurring every month, from feeling dizzy and nauseous, to have uncalled headaches and acute cramps (also called period pains or dysmenorrhea) caused due to a medical condition called prostaglandins which causes contractions in the uterine walls and muscles, followed by bloating, irritability, depression, severe mood swings, lasting anger, and fatigue.
Statistics say that 90% 0f the women experience various kinds of other symptoms while they menstruate and more than 52% of the women happen to more likely miss their schools or work because of the harrowing pain that they feel in their lower abdomen and more than 14% of the females bleed so heavily that they always undergo the panic of getting stained or period-shamed by people around them.
Yet, periods remain a hush-hush topic and people shy away from talking about it, thereby using various other synonymous phrases like, ‘I’m down’ or It’s that time of the month’ or ‘I’m low’ and so on.

Periods are natural | Periods |
Periods| FOP Leave| VK Blog

PERIODS at Workplace

There is a dire need to talk about periods in the workplace because working women spend most of their time in offices and the menstrual clock does not work in parity with the working hours.

  • It is required to talk about periods because there is an urgency for all the employees of the office to understand the biological difference between a man and a woman and what periods can actually do.
  • It is crucial to talk about periods because no female employee would simply want to stay back at home and refrain from taking on work responsibilities.
  • It is critical to talk about menstruation because period-shaming and gossip in and around the office are not only embarrassing but harassing as well.
  • It is vital to talk about menstruation because PMS is actually not a fancy word.
  • It is essential to talk about periods because menstruating women are not a disadvantage to the workplace environment.
  • It is significant to talk about periods because if you don’t, then her next organization definitely would!

Getting periods at work can be a dreadful, troublesome, and risky affair, both physically and emotionally. The conservative nature of the society easily attracts several eyes on the female employee while she gets up a little too carefully or stealthily, while on her periods and a topic which is considered a social stigma for a healthy open discussion, all of a sudden becomes a mild and harsh mockery while she covers her sanitary napkin in between the purse and handkerchief, heading towards the washroom!

Periods| FOP Leave| VK Blog

WHY FOP LEAVE IS A DEBATABLE TOPIC?

There would be several arguments on the period leave policy because many wish and believe that it comes as an undue advantage to women and is strictly against gender equality. But what needs to be understood is that both men and women are physically different and gender equality has got nothing to do with it.
The real progression would begin when we would not only understand but also honor these differences.
A recent discussion between Barkha Dutt and Kavita Krishnan had gained a lot of attention when Zomato had announced a 10-day leave in the year for the working females who occupy almost 35% of occupancy in the company.

It had triggered a lot of debate and arguments amongst the women force themselves because many people agree with Dutt that periods and their related problems are not biological essentialism and instead of specific gender-leaves being allocated every month, there should be an extension in the yearly medical leaves, for both men and women because it took a long time for the women to have been socially accepted, recognized and enter the corporate world, after having to fight and constantly prove themselves of their capabilities. Any such step would not only act as a hindrance towards women empowerment but also hamper the progression for certain job roles where women might get denied and turned down because she is entitled to such leaves.

Krishnan on the other hand tried explaining that women react and respond in various ways to their biological and hormonal malfunctions when it comes to menstruation, and handling periods at the workplace with meetings and deadlines is definitely not fancy for most of them. To support her argument, she presented the example of the Bihar government allowing women the FOPs since 1900 because there was a need for it.

The CEO of Zomato, Deepinder Goyal says that FOP leaves should be used only when there is an absolute and real need for it by keeping home and taking care of oneself, and not be misused to complete the pending tasks!
If the men of the society can come to terms with understanding and addressing such vital and sensitive concerns of women, then I believe that women too should not take the leverages of such initiatives.

However, companies who haven’t yet thought of introducing the leave policy in their organization should put in a thought of having it included since many studies and data have shown that women during menstruation become less productive and cannot invest as much attention and concentration as they can during the other days. Hence, an FOP leave would not only help them rest and take care of themselves and their body during menstruation, but also prevent them from having to bear the pain of cramps along with the tension of staining, or get period-shamed or talked about or discussed in the office.

Meanwhile, companies should also focus and work on stocking sanitary napkins or tampons and other period essential kits like hot water bags, energy drinks, doctor prescribed vitamin capsules, cushions, etc to ease them with the tormenting unbearable pain that would help them stay a little calmer and relaxed because MENSTRUATION IS SIMPLY NOT A CHOICE!

Periods| FOP Leave| VK Blog

FOP AT SMARTQ

The formulation of such a female-centric policy was a challenge and there still remains a great deal of concealment and shame in understanding and talking about the natural concerns associated with womanhood.
Having activated the idea of FOP in the organization from November 2018, it was also made sure that the education and knowledge about the specific leave should be given not only to the female joiners but also the male hires too, because SmartQ has always been a company who puts employees’ safety, well being, happiness, and satisfaction as its top priority.

Read the true incident of how SmartQ got the idea of implementing the FOP Leave in their organization.

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Varsha Karmakar

“Perhaps I write for no one, Perhaps I write for the same person”- Margaret Atwood.