Menstrual leave – where does South Africa stand on this issue?
Some countries – including Indonesia, South Korea, Taiwan and Zambia – have entrenched the right for female workers to take leave for severe pain related to the menstrual cycle, known as dysmenorrhea.
In February this year, Spain became the first country in Europe to approve paid menstrual leave, writes politico.eu.
What is South Africa’s position on this? The country’s Basic Conditions of Employment Act covers the conditions and criteria that govern various forms of leave, including annual leave, sick leave and family responsibility leave.
Currently, full-time employees are entitled to 30 days’ paid sick leave over a period of 36 months. However a medical certificate booking a person off sick only becomes a requirement if the person is off for more than two consecutive days or if they are frequently absent.
But the Act does not stipulate the official position of either employee or employer regarding dysmenorrhea.
Some companies have realised the significance of this trend and taken early initiative.
According to an article published in Techpoint.africa in December 2022, local ecommerce start-up Klasha introduced a menstrual leave policy “to grant self-care opportunities to employees during their menstrual cycles.”
It’s a step in the right direction and if one goes by some literature, a lot more needs to be done.
In September 2022, an article by Sarah Smit, published by the Mail & Guardian business online, shares details of a conversation with Candice Chirwa, author of Flow: The book about menstruation.
Smit writes that period leave is not a new concept, but there is still a lack of policy, awareness and candidness around menstruation in the workplace.
The fact is we are discussing a perfectly normal and natural process, but one that can affect women in different ways and at different times.
Any modern workplace that proclaims to be in tandem with progressive rights and policies that reflect the society we live in today has to consider implementing legislation to safeguard the rights of women.