American workers deserve menstrual leave: Period

Hannah Lowell


Member at Large for Class ‘26 Commuter Representative


On February 16th, Spain became the first European country to grant workers the option for paid menstrual leave. People who experience menstrual cycles in Spain now have the right to three days of menstrual leave a month. There is also an option of extending it to five days of paid menstrual leave if they experience extremely painful periods. Friends of mine have said, “Well that’s great, I haven’t heard of any other country legalizing this” but there are a handful of countries who have similar laws in place:


Introduced in 1948 and was restructured in 2003. Says people who have menstrual cycles and experience extreme pain from them are not obliged to work on the first two days of the cycle.

South Korea

Is written in Article 73 of the labor law. States that people who have menstrual cycles are provided monthly “physiologic leave” and receive a day’s leave every month.


Is written in Article 14 of the gender equality in employment law. It allows female employees the right to request one day off a month for menstrual cycle reasons but they only received half that day’s pay


“Mother’s Day” refers to the one day a month all female workers receive. They do not have to give a reason or show any medical notes.

I didn’t know that many countries had laws and articles in place for paid menstrual leave. It honestly shocked me. I realized that I had never thought about having a paid menstrual leave in the US or in any other country and what the pros & cons of one may be. Paid menstrual leave would give people who menstruate a chance to be in the comfort of their own homes while dealing with the extreme pains of a period. It would also give those people some peace of mind that they aren’t being penalized for needing a day (or days) to breathe.

Kirstin Stelmok is a professor at Plymouth State University who teaches courses for Women, Gender, & Sexuality Studies and is an activist for reproductive rights for all. Her thoughts on paid menstrual leaves were mostly concerned with privacy. “I would be incredibly concerned about privacy” she stated. “For one thing, some people with uteri and menstrual cycles are trans or nonbinary, and they shouldn’t have to “out” themselves to their bosses or coworkers for any reason. Also concerning are attempts around the country to roll back reproductive rights. As anti-trans bills proliferate and abortion is criminalized in many states, privacy around menstrual cycles is a legitimate safety concern for many who menstruate.” The point she made about privacy being at risk made me stop and think a little deeper. I am a cisgender woman and with that comes privileges that others who menstruate don’t have. I don’t think about losing privacy or being outed about my gender to my coworkers and bosses. I recognize the privilege I have around my menstrual cycles.

Another point Stelmok made in her statement that really stood out to me was the history of the stigma around menstrual cycles and how women are viewed because of their periods. “…the stigma around menstruation has been used to exclude women from positions of leadership (in politics, business, and even the military) for centuries” she said. “The idea that women are too emotional, unpredictable, or “hysterical” to hold power has a long history in the US, which is far behind many comparator nations in terms of gender equality, and I think a move like this might reinforce misconceptions about women’s abilities.” This was the movement when I thought to myself, “maybe paid menstrual leave isn’t the completely right thing to do.”

It is true that our history has shown that women’s menstrual cycles have made men look at women through a narrow scope. They have thought of women as weak and too irrational to make any important decisions because of their periods. That mindset and viewpoints of women haven’t gone away completely even in our world today.

When I thought deeper about the points my teacher had made about how introducing paid menstrual leave in the US may not be the best idea, I started to agree with her. I started thinking of ways this topic could be tackled. In her statement, Stelmok mentioned a “more inclusive paid medical leave that includes menstrual symptoms without any requirement for disclosure” which I thought was brilliant. Zambia has it written into their laws that female workers do not have to give a reason or any medical note as to why they are not at work. Having that written into their laws protects all workers who menstruate. The US should take steps towards writing an inclusive law for all people who menstruate to be able to have days off during their periods and be able to still get paid. We are all human beings and menstrual cycles are a part of almost half of the world’s population. Companies and big corporations need to be considerate and understand that menstrual cycles are different for everyone who experiences them and having a paid day off to be in the comfort of their own home is okay.