Menstrual leave benefits all
Recently, Gabriela Rep. Arlene Brosas filed House Bill No. 7758 that proposed to grant paid menstrual leave of at most two days per month to employees. A similar bill, HB 6728, was also filed by Cotabato Rep. Ma. Alana Samantha Santos earlier in the year. Former senator Ping Lacson felt the need to speak up and said “Maternity leave, paternity leave and now, menstrual leave—all with pay. Next time, a legislative measure will be filed mandating menopause and andropause allowances to increase testosterone levels of workers.”
This remark is not only illogical but alarms me as to how the former presidential candidate seems to misunderstand women’s health and family care. His slippery slope fallacy seems to assume that maternity leave was bad, paternity leave even worse, and menstrual leave absurd. I won’t even comment on his fear of acknowledging menopause and andropause. Anyone that dismisses the merits of maternity and paternity leave clearly have no idea how all-consuming pregnancy and childbirth can be. With a body that is still in recovery with a newborn to take care of, paternity leave is necessary to take care of both mother and child. Only those with an army of help and with enough financial security to withstand months of no pay whilst having the expenses of hospitals and a new baby will dare suggest that new mothers and fathers go without pay during this time. What is it about some people’s refusal to acknowledge people’s experience that is different from them?
My fellow columnist Inez Ponce de Leon already gave excellent arguments yesterday on the merits of providing menstrual leave as part of an overall package of care for employees that would lessen turnover rates and increase participation of women in the workplace. She also highlighted how other countries already provided us a model of how such a paid leave does not take away from company productivity. She also did away with the unsubstantiated fears that women will exploit this leave—this has not been proven to happen in other countries that have implemented such leaves.
The other common concern I hear is that such a leave will make companies hire less women and increase discrimination against women in the workplace. This concern is valid, but the solution is not to avoid taking care of women. Discrimination against women already happens—with or without these leaves. The movement to end discrimination based on gender should continue as we encourage companies to recognize their employees’ well-being.
Employers and managers that are solely concerned with their bottom line should then rejoice to know that many international studies have already done away with the notion that hiring women costs more and hurts their profits. A study in the Harvard Business Review saw that companies with a higher proportion of women in top leadership positions tend to be more profitable. This study, which focused on innovation, looked at 163 multinational companies over 13 years and saw that companies with a significant proportion of women leaders are more open to change, less open to risk, and shifted focus from mergers and acquisitions to research and development. Other studies have found similar results, with more gender inclusive companies gaining more clients, increasing sales revenues, and achieving greater overall profit. If companies really are interested in profit, they should be looking to offer incentives for women to stay.
The problem with “common sense” in these arguments is that seemingly logical arguments aren’t always right. Yes, in the short term you will have to pay for two nonproductive days a month, which might seem like it’ll hurt the company’s bottom line. What is disregarded in this biased argument is how much an employee actually contributes to the company. Individual work productivity is not constant, where we remain at the same productive level each day or even each hour. For example, we know not to schedule important meetings after lunch—people’s attention and energy are at their lowest. Companies who are aware of fluctuating productivity levels have caught on and allowed their workers flexible work hours to allow the workers to adjust to working at a time when they are most productive.
Forcing workers to work when they are sick or unwell is very inefficient use of your labor force. It is much more efficient to give them all the resources they need to recover so that they can bounce back quicker. Not only will this increase their overall productivity, this will also increase their motivation as workers feel they are taken care of. This lowers attrition rate, and we know that high turnover rates does hurt the bottom line.
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