PAID menstrual leave has been implemented for employees at a Sabah-based furniture business.
Every month, female employees at Brutti & Besi are allowed to take a day off for menstrual pain without the worry of getting cold-eyed stares.
“I hope to instil a culture of trust and acceptance at work, as well as end the stigma surrounding menstruation. Other than that, I hope that other companies will follow suit and adopt a menstrual leave policy, laying the foundation for a nationwide policy,” NST reported Brutti & Besi founder Lukman Awaluddin as saying.
According to Lukman, menstrual leave policy allows female employees to take time off work without being stigmatised, having to make up excuses or feigning sickness.
Brutti & Besi’s goal is to foster trust among employees to make the workplace more productive, efficient and creative.
Moreover, women should not be ashamed or stigmatised when applying for period leave. Employees should feel comfortable informing their employers that they are on menstrual leave, opined Lukman.
“Why the need to feel embarrassed of having periods, a critical biological function?”
What motivated and drove Lukman to implement the policy himself rather than wait for the government of the day to mandate menstrual leave by law is the personal struggle he went through with his wife-cum-business partner Siti Faznur Abd Khaleq.
Siti had been suffering from severe menstrual cramps for years, which she thought was ‘normal’. There came a point where the pain was so excruciating that she could hardly carry on with day-to-day tasks, he shared.
After immediately seeking medical advice, only then the couple learned that Siti had a uterine fibroid of about 10cm in diameter. This was a lesson for Siti to not underestimate the pain she experienced.
“Thankfully, the procedure ended well and we had the fibroid removed and Siti is feeling much better now,” said Lukman.
In addition, around the same time, a new employee Dg Nuriah Anis Abd Majid contacted Lukman seeking permission to take medical leave as she suffered from severe menstrual pain. Instead, Lukman and Siti suggested Nuriah go on unrecorded leave.
After exchanging views with Siti’s female friends and a gynaecologist, Lukman came to the conclusion that menstrual pain is an issue most tend to overlook.
“Of course, we didn’t blindly jump into this (menstrual leave policy). Siti and I thoroughly researched it and studied the various period leave policies implemented in other countries and organisations,” he said.
After deciding to introduce menstrual leave, Lukman went through another week discussing implementation, deliberating on how it would affect production, key performance indicators, and possible drawbacks.
Lukman told NST as a manager, they need to show their employees that they care about them as well.
“Further, requiring an employee to see a doctor just to get a medical certificate (MC) while experiencing period pain makes no sense. What’s the point of asking her to drive and sit through the waiting time (at a clinic) to get an MC? She might as well drive to work with that pain.
“Hence, we feel menstrual leave should be viewed separately and exempted from the procedure of taking MC,” opined Lukman.
Menstrual leave policy
As of now, Lukman’s employees will simply have to use the system to apply for leave. He is in hopes that this implementation will not be abused and backfire him. After all, it is a risk one has to embrace.
“The second day off will be deducted from medical leave. We are still experimenting with the mechanism,” added Lukman.
He also noted that should the menstrual leave implementation run smoothly at Brutti & Besi, he would implement it in his other company, a cleaning company with 100% women employees.
The way forward
Apart from aspiring to inspire others, Lukman is determined to encourage more companies to implement the menstrual leave policy as a pilot project to gather more data and so that they have better mechanisms for its implementation.
Although it is not an overnight decision, Lukman is also positive that the Government can adopt it into its national policy. – Dec 8, 2022
Main photo credit: Unsplash