my male coworkers are insisting on taking “period leave”

A reader writes:

I’m a manager in an overseas office of an American company. About two-thirds of our employees were hired locally, with the remainder (mostly managers) having relocated from the United States.

Under local law, women are allowed one day off per month to care for menstrual symptoms. Women wishing to use this benefit are required to give notice by the start of the workday that they will be absent, manager approval is not required, and it will not count against their leave balance.

Our legal division, based back in the the States, determined that this local rule is unfair because it: (1) constructively requires women to disclose their menstrual/health status by virtue of invoking that leave category, and (2) it is discriminatory because it provides a benefit to women that men do not receive. I disagree with point 1 on the basis that one is technically disclosing their health status anytime they request sick leave and no one seems to mind that. Point 2 feels very “why is there no white history month?” to me, but okay.

Anyway, the legal division advised that we have to extend this benefit to all local employees. So now, even though local law does not require it, our branch has a policy that any locally-employed member of staff can take an unscheduled day off every single month, no questions asked. (Note: This law was the result of years of women’s rights advocacy. The letter of the law is not perfect since obviously not all women menstruate, and not all people who menstruate consider themselves women. Local law controversially does not acknowledge transgender, nonbinary, and intersex persons. But the spirit of it was definitely meant to accommodate menstruation and did not contemplate cisgender men availing themselves of period leave. Women workers here use an honor system and take very seriously the need to only invoke this leave category when they truly need it for fear of ruining it for others.)

It is becoming a mess. I have had no issues with the women on my team, but a locally-employed man on my team (who has made it clear he is not a trans man) is clearly misusing this leave category. For example, we were closed for a local holiday on Thursday and again the following Monday. He took “period leave” the Friday in between, even though it left us in the lurch for a big meeting that day in which he had a key role. Everyone knows he did that just to give himself an extra long weekend, during which he openly went on a pre-planned vacation. When I tried to level with him offline as in “Dude, you know this leave category is meant for women, what are you doing?” he looped in HR, who warned me that I’m not allowed to question an employee’s use of period leave. I feel like I’m taking crazy pills!

(Women had started calling these leave days “mother’s day” to be delicate. When my male direct-report called out last week, he said he was taking a “father’s day,” but HR confirmed that’s not a thing. It’s still period leave, it’s just that men are also entitled to it.)

Are we really just stuck with this ridiculous rule? I’m ready to write to legal to suggest an alternative interpretation, but I’m not sure what alternative will satisfy both the spirit of the local law and U.S. non-discrimination laws. A local friend in another industry told me her company has a rule that “period leave” cannot be taken on a Friday, Monday, or adjacent to a holiday. While that solves part of the problem, what if someone really does happen to have debilitating menstrual cramps on one of the blackout days? I’d love to hear your input and that of your readers.

This is ridiculous.

Does your male coworker want cramps too?

I don’t know how I feel about the period leave system in general, but I’m not part of the culture that has it. It apparently works in the culture you’re in. Trying to making another culture’s law comply with U.S. employment law is at the root of this, and it’s unnecessary. U.S. law doesn’t apply where you are; the laws of your jurisdiction do. Your U.S. headquarters isn’t required to impose U.S. rules on your office (just like a London-based employer isn’t required to apply UK vacation minimums to U.S.-based employees).

Your country’s law is saying, “We’re giving this accommodation to everyone with this specific medical condition (difficult periods).” By responding that everyone must get that, your U.S. office is doing the equivalent of saying “if people with wheelchairs get special parking, everyone needs to get special parking.” Moreover, they’re undermining the accommodation for people who do have difficult periods — the very people it was intended for — because now they get a day off when they feel sick, and non-period-having people get a day off for fun. That’s not equal and it’s clearly not what the law was intended to do. (And yes, women in your office could respond by taking a day off every month whether they need it or not, but that sounds totally at odds with the culture of this benefit in your country.)

It might be interesting to talk with a local lawyer about whether your company’s “solution” violates the local law — because if the law is written in a way that requires women to be given an additional day, separate from the rest of the time off the company provides, your company’s policy wouldn’t comply.

{ 741 comments… read them below }

  1. Justin*

    It does feel, like you said, like the “white history month” thing. Or like reacting to Juneteenth by saying, “Well we get one too right?”

    Anyway, yeah, it doesn’t make any legal sense before you get into the grossness of the behavior.

    1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

      The logic of the US office and the men in the local office is off, IMO. Parental leave, bereavement leave, hell, even sick leave, are only available to people when they are experiencing specific life/health situations. Sure, it is available to everyone, but only if they meet certain criteria. I’m a woman who would not be eligible for period leave because I had a hysterectomy same as I wouldn’t be eligible for parental leave because I’m never becoming a parent, for bereavement leave unless there is a death in my family (definitely leave I am happy to forgo), and I can’t take sick leave unless I am sick or have a medical appointment (two situations I’m also happy to forgo as much as possible).

        1. Momma Bear*

          Agreed. I don’t get jury duty pay when I’m not the one on jury duty.

          However, would the company be open to considering another day or two of sick leave per month, maybe that is not banked, for everyone? Or allowing more flex for sick leave/WFH?

          This guy is such a jerk. Shame no one can insist he be hooked up to one of those cramps simulators when he tries this nonsense.

      1. Slow Gin Lizz*

        Oh, but this brings forth more issues: Would you want to tell your company that you had a hysterectomy and therefore don’t need period leave? Is there an age limit on this leave or do people have to disclose once they’ve gone through menopause and are no longer menstruating? And what about people who menstruate who don’t consider themselves women? Perhaps they are in a country where being trans and out isn’t a problem but if they don’t feel comfortable outing themselves, they are at a disadvantage over ciswomen who get period day when they don’t.

        I love that this company gives period days, but why not just have a more lenient sick day policy so that when someone is having cramps (ugh) they don’t feel like they’re taking time away from their limited amount of sick days. And maybe that would solve the problem of cismen feeling like they are being discriminated against by not being allowed period days. I am *in no way* arguing that the men *are* discriminated against, mind you, just pointing out that if the company offers more sick days in general, men will realize that period days aren’t just fun extra vacation days but actually days to rest and recover when you are in severe pain.

        1. Slow Gin Lizz*

          *Some* men will realize, I should have said. Maybe. I suspect the ones who are doing the kind of things LW wrote about are either stupid or deliberately obtuse, so maybe it’ll all be lost on them, but I do think that making sick days non-gendered is probably a better move. I personally don’t feel like I want to advertise to everyone I work with that I’m having my period just because I’m out sick. Would rather just say, Not feeling well, thanks. But that’s just me, of course.

          1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

            Can we add the unfortunately obscenely entitled male syndrome to that list. Unfortunately there isn’t a cure for that particular problem though.

          2. TheRain'sSmallHands*

            Years ago I worked with a woman who was out once a month on sick leave. About every 28 days. The thing is, your coworkers can count. So while not calling it menstrual leave and just letting everyone take enough sick days when they feel sick is the best possible thing, if you are a uterus owner of a certain age that is out once a month like clockwork, chances are after a few months your coworkers have picked up that you have difficult cycles. And yes, its culturally awkward to bring it up, but wouldn’t it be nice if it were normalized and you could just call your boss with “ugh, cramps.”

            Sick leave is inherently “unfair” because some people are out more often than the few days you are granted. Once a month for someone with really bad periods eats up most sick leave in the U.S. If you suffer from migraines you can use it up quickly. If you have a medical condition that requires regular doctors appointments during the day – say dialysis or infusions for RA – you’ll eat it up. And of course there is caring for sick kids or parents. On the other hand, you could be one of those people who is never ill, doesn’t have responsibilities to care for others if they are ill, and who visits the doctor every few years for a checkup and the dentist every six months and that’s the extent of leave you use. So having to fill in for your coworker who is out regularly can feel like an additional burden – even if you acknowledge that you still wouldn’t want to be sitting in an infusion chair every month.

            1. Elitist Semicolon*

              Do people really notice the pattern by which co-workers are out, though, in the absence of a situation that involves covering shifts? I can’t imagine having a long enough or precise enough memory to remember that someone was even out at all a month ago, much less to realize that they’re out every 28 days. (Most menstruating people aren’t that regular, either, so being out one day a month every month doesn’t necessarily mean anything.) I’d leave a workplace if I found out someone was noticing patterns and drawing conclusions about the difficult of other people’s cycles.

              1. emmaX*

                This. I can’t possibly imagine being so interested in my co-workers schedules that I would ever notice they were out once a month. Like ever.

                1. Lego Leia*

                  When it is every Friday or Monday before or after a long weekend, people notice. Or, if it coincides with end of month or some other task that they have to take over? Yes, they will notice. Other than that, not really.

                2. LittleMarshmallow*

                  It’s not necessarily that I’m interested… but I will say that stuff like that is more obvious with a very small team vs a large one. In my current job there’s like 5 people so yeah… we notice absences. It’s just hard not to when you see each other soo much. My previous workplace was a site of 500+ with departments only as small as like 30 people so you interacted with so many more people so generally patterns weren’t as obvious.

                  That said… this whole letter is bananas… the entitlement to take basically an extra pto day because “men too?” While the women are actively trying not to abuse it so they don’t lose it is just… ridiculous.

                  I’m mostly menstrating cis female. I rarely have symptoms bad enough to merit taking a day off (I’ll feel crappy for a day or two but it’s not debilitating like some people) and my cycle is quite irregular. Only once in my life did I ever feel like I needed a day off for it. but I 100% believe that it is different for everyone. I don’t know that I think you need a special day off for everyone, but if it works in that country then it’s cool. I think in the US it would be just as ok to just allow that to be a medical accommodation for those that need it just like you might for migraine sufferers or other chronic illness. It is after all a chronic illness of sorts.

                3. Dragon_Dreamer*

                  And yet, some people have too much time on their hands. I had a supervisor who would get very snotty with me when I called out sick, if he judged it had been about a month since last time. (I *do* get very heavy, painful periods that can cause me to throw up, but my immune system sucks in general.) HR refused to believe any of my complaints about him. And yes, this was the bent metal fastener.

              2. Lady Blerd*

                It can happen. In a previous job we had someone who routinely took the two days of sick leave [no questions asked] every month, something we were entitled to, like clockwork, always on Mondays. Since we also knew that he loved going out and party, it didn’t take long for us to figure out what it was he was really recovering from.

              3. RB*

                Yes, it’s the people who cover for them that notice it most. In a job that doesn’t require coverage, what you said might apply.

                1. Dawbs*

                  Yeah, i “knew” some of my employees’ schedules because i had to turn in data at the end of the month and it became a little obvious when u had to hunt down their data, that one was always out then.
                  (Which i fixed by doing weekly mini- collections, so i had most of it regardless of their absence)

              4. TheRain'sSmallHands*

                Apparently they did, because people all knew she’d be out approximately then and commented on it. Not in a nasty sort of way – it was an office of women – just in a “she must have it really rough” sort of way. Never to her.

              5. fueled by coffee*

                Someone please write the urban fantasy novel where the werewolf gets called out by nosy coworkers who assume they’re constantly out for menstrual cramps.

                1. TheRain'sSmallHands*

                  At least in my IRL version of it, no one said anything to her – there was no calling out – just a sympathetic “I’m glad mine aren’t that bad” among the other women in the office. She was productive, easy to be around, she just took one day off a month, like clockwork – assumedly because for some women periods SUCK.

                  I suppose it might have been for something else, since no one ever asked.

            2. anon4this*

              Just wait till everybody’s cycles sync up :)

              JK! Although I don’t think anyone normal/in real life would ever actually time mensuration cycles for their coworkers, I do remember an episode of “Community” where Abed was tracking all of the women’s cycles in the group, and it was incredibly elaborate number system with color-coded calendars for each and all of the women flipped out on him.

              1. Slow Gin Lizz*

                Cycle sync is a completely myth, though. You probably knew that, but I figured I’d mention it for all those people out there who don’t know. (Sorry about the derailment, Alison!)

        2. Calliope*

          It sounds like nobody would have to disclose anything not to take it because people aren’t expected to take it – so presumably folks would just assume someone who didn’t take it didn’t have bad periods. But at any rate, it sounds like OP’s country’s law so the company can’t set a different policy.

          1. kitryan*

            Yeah, you’re disclosing whether or not you have debilitating menstrual symptoms, not why you do or don’t have them, so if you don’t take the leave, you wouldn’t need to disclose why you didn’t. It does (when used as intended) effectively require you to identify yourself as a period-having person to use the benefit but it does not require that someone who does not utilize it report anything at all.

            1. Slow Gin Lizz*

              Right, good points. And I am all for normalizing periods, yes, let’s do that! And yet while saying that, I also don’t really want to advertise to my coworkers when I’m having my period, any more than I want to tell them about most other health issues I have. Inconsistency, thy name is Slow Gin Lizz.

        3. quill*

          It sounds like the setup is that you only get the period leave off if you ask? So if you don’t take it off every month no conclusions will probably be drawn if you stop taking it due to hysterectomy, etc.

        4. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

          Do I need to announce to a company that I am not going to need parental leave? No. Period leave would be the same. Now determining who *WOULD* have it available would be tough. Only way I could imagine it would be having something on hiring intake forms saying “Have you menstruated at least once in the past year?” and only folks that check that box would be eligible somewhat like disclosing a need for ADA accommodations with all the same problems that has and its own issues (e.g. would you ask people to update yearly to exclude post-menopausal/hysterectomy folks?)

          1. MincePies*

            “Have you menstruated at least once in the past year?”
            that’s not going to work as a rule. There are lots of causes of amenorrhea that aren’t permanent. I haven’t menstruated in 21 months (pregnancy, breastfeeding) but I still fully expect to in future.

          2. somanyquestions*

            Why would you need to screen for who COULD take it? They just take it.

          3. Pointy's in the North Tower*

            I don’t menstruate, but I ovulate. That comes with its own bag of fun that I’d forgotten about while I was on ovulation-suppressing birth control. Pretty sure I’ve had a few days of tetchy stomach that were ovulation-related and not actually something I caught.

            (Fun fact: hysterotomy refers to the removal of the uterus, not the ovaries.)

        5. Librarian of SHIELD*

          Why would anyone have to disclose that they have had a hysterectomy or have gone through menopause? When you stop needing the period leave, you just stop taking it. You don’t need to make an announcement about it.

        6. MM*

          Yeah, this is kind of where I’m at. If the net effect is a more lenient leave policy that benefits everyone, I think that’s just….a good thing? Yes, even if it doesn’t benefit everyone in exactly the same ways, or in the strictest sense of “equally.” This one guy in OP’s example is abusing it the same as he might abuse any other flexibility afforded to him by taking a day gratuitously when he knows he’s needed. In terms of work, the question of periods is kind of irrelevant to the fact that he’s just choosing to be an ass. No one can prove that no menstruating woman has ever, EVER, taken her period day and used it for something else, or when she didn’t really need it, after all. Even with the cultural norm against it, odds are this has in fact happened, and that is: fine!

          I understand that in the context of the place where this office is located, it’s much more loaded because of the history of the benefit. I also understand that the justification for the new policy was strict equality, and that is not what is achieved here, and that’s both silly and bound to piss people off. Probably it would have been better for the US headquarters to just leave all of it alone. But with things as they are now, it’s not really clear to me that menstruating people are losing anything because others are being flippant. The point of the period day was not to have something over and above what those who don’t menstruate have, after all, right? It was to accommodate a specific need, and that need is still being accommodated. As the comments and concerns regarding trans people and various types of disclosures have already noted, this policy quite possibly is doing a better job accommodating that need. (Let’s say absenteeism becomes a major issue and ends up getting addressed at the policy level. US headquarters cannot undo the country’s law that instated the period benefit. The worst that happens is the men lose their inclusion in it and it all goes back to how it was before. Maybe somebody should point that out to them, not to mention that they’re on track to making their colleagues and bosses, ah, look poorly on them.) At least according to feminism as I practice and understand it, broadening benefits intended for women is just good feminist practice–think about how we talk about family leave now, for instance.

          If the issue is an employee or several being irresponsible, then that is what should be addressed. If it is their rubbing their irresponsibility in everyone’s faces in ways that kick up gendered tensions, that absolutely should be specifically addressed, and I think it wouldn’t be transgressing the “no questions asked” rule to raise that either with an individual (outside the context of an immediate leave request) or within the company generally. Beyond that, this feels like it’s getting into the territory of, “we can’t offer benefits unless we’re absolutely sure that nobody gets something they don’t ~deserve.” And just generally, that is a recipe for inefficiency, invasions of privacy, suspicion, dividing the workforce (or the population, depending on what kind of benefits we’re talking about), and all kinds of ill-feeling.

          1. Mr. Shark*

            I see your point. And I understand that it might annoy women that this historically period-leave is now being used randomly by men as an advantage, but that is what the company has instituted. It applied the extra monthly day off to everyone, regardless of sex, gender, identity, or anything else that would directly relate to period-leave (age?)

            The man in the letter is using this stupid change in the rule by the company to his advantage, and it may be annoying, but I’m not sure that, as the rule stands, he’s doing anything wrong, and definitely not misogynistic by using the leave as it now intended–a no questions asked, day off every month for everyone.

            As you point out, the people who menstruate still are getting this benefit, and those who don’t, get it too, and maybe should be willing to take advantage of it as well, since it is no longer directly related to period leave.

            1. Ice and Indigo*

              Period leave isn’t a ‘day off’, unless lying down in orrible pain is your idea of a holiday!

              Giving it to everyone is giving non-menstruators an extra unearned benefit. (Especially since the letter says that the women of the office don’t actually abuse the system to get unnecessary leave.) This guy in the letter is taking the mickey.

              For people with painful periods, it’s not a benefit. It’s an accommodation – and those are supposed to be need-based, not the same for everyone.

              1. Mr. Shark*

                Absolutely. I agree totally with you. The day as originally intended was suppose to be period leave, and the law of the location defined that. And I know it’s not just a day off for fun or a holiday.
                But once the company changed the definition by allowing men to use it, was it considered period leave anymore? Or was it just considered a day off allowable every month? And therefore, anyone, at anytime, could use that day and take it off for any reason?

            2. zinzarin*

              What the man in the letter did wrong is to use this elective “free day off” to take pre-planned vacation on a day when he knew he was a key role in a presentation. The right thing for him to have done would be to have the presentation moved to a day he knew he would be in the office, or come in on that day for the presentation.

              He’s not wrong for using the benefit the company chose to provide him. He’s wrong for knowingly using it in a way that left the company and his coworkers disadvantaged, underperforming, or making up for his absence in a key role.

          2. JB (not in Houston)*

            “The point of the period day was not to have something over and above what those who don’t menstruate have, after all, right?”
            The man taking this leave does have something that those who take leave for its intended purpose don’t have–they are staying home because of a medical condition, whereas he just gets a free fun day. So if you are a person who menstruates who needs that day off for its intended purpose, you essentially have one less vacation day than everyone else does because you don’t have that day to use for something fun.

        7. KGD*

          I don’t think that you would have to disclose a hysterectomy or menopause, because it sounds to me like you just take period leave on an as-needed basis. So if you don’t need it, you don’t ask for it. If someone requests it, you accept that in good faith that they are telling you the truth and don’t pry into personal details.

          I think the men involved are being self-involved jerks. I think the best option would for the company to extend the leave to anyone who needs it – they could send out a policy clarification that explained this leave isn’t just for women, it is for any person who experiences pain due to menstruation and isn’t able to work as a result. This would be supportive of trans and non-binary staff and also make it clear that this isn’t for cis men. At the same time, they could go through the other forms of leave that ‘Danger: Gumption Ahead’ outlined so clearly to make emphasize that nobody is being discriminated against.

        8. Berin*

          I mean, there’s literally no need to disclose any of what you’re asking. If you menstruate, you use the day if you need it. If you don’t need it, you don’t use it. OP states that the people the law is intended for are really serious about using the time correctly so they don’t mess it up for others. OP’s company is creating a problem where there wasn’t one before, because some men at the company are having a sad.

          That’s the problem here – men are mad that they can’t have a day off, because they don’t believe that it’s a healthcare day for women. They are implying that their day of fun is equivalent to taking a day to deal with period symptoms, either because they have no empathy for people who menstruate, or because they believe that women who menstruate are exaggerating their symptoms. That’s the implication here, and it’s rooted in misogyny.

          1. GreenDoor*

            “…because they have no empathy for people who menstruate, or because they believe that women who menstruate are exaggerating their symptoms. That’s the implication here, and it’s rooted in misogyny.” To me, this reads just like men who complain about women getting “‘all that time for maternity leave” or who refer to maternity leave as a “vacation” – as if we’re just laying on the beach eating bon-bons for 12 weeks.

            I like the idea of checking with a local legal expert – if what the OP’s company is doing would actually put them in legal jeopardy at the local level, that would be a good angle to push back with.

          2. Mr. Shark*

            I don’t know. Is this really being communicated, now, as Period Leave, or is it being communicated as an extra day of leave once a month, since it now includes men?

            If it’s still being communicated as it was intended by the law, rather than the way the company is enforcing it, then I agree, the men in this situation shouldn’t be using that day as just another day off. It’s supposed to be for a specific purpose.

            But if it’s just now, an extra day off, for anyone, regardless if they menstruate or how they identify, then I’m not sure why the men shouldn’t be allowed to take a day off, and why it is somehow misogynistic to do so.

            1. Period Leave OP*

              It’s very much still period leave. It hasn’t been broadened to apply for other purposes. It’s just that men are now entitled to it as well. Which is fine, because it is conceivable that this particular workplace may now or at some point in the future employ men who menstruate (even though that was not one of the two reasons Legal provided for why they decided to expand the policy). The problem is that cis men are using it for other than its intended purpose. If the biologically male colleague I cited in this particular example had said “I’m taking a period day today; my cramps are really bad,” I would have had to let it go even if I rolled my eyes internally at the blatant lie. What he actually said was “I’m taking period leave…to take my family on vacation,” which is not ok. Even if managers are not allowed to ask questions when people take period leave, I can’t believe HR is turning a ignoring this unapologetic abuse.

              1. Mr. Shark*

                Okay, OP! Thanks for the clarification. That’s all I was asking, since it no longer made sense to refer to it as Period Leave if it that was no longer the case as classified by the company.

                I’ve asked the question many times in these comments, but this clarifies my only question about your letter. I can see why you and the rest of the people at your office are frustrated by this guy. I get it now.

                I’m not sure what can be done given he has already pushed back by looping HR into any conversations.

        9. Raboot*

          > Would you want to tell your company that you had a hysterectomy and therefore don’t need period leave?

          You just… don’t take those days in that case. Not taking those days reveals nothing about your medical history.

          > why not just have a more lenient sick day policy

          Because they’re following a legal requirement to give an extra day for this medical condition. There is no sign that their sick leave policy is otherwise lacking.

        10. The Other Katie*

          It’s my understanding from the post and what I know about these laws that simply instituting a more generous sick leave policy – which is great! – doesn’t comply with local law which specifically requires period leave. So the company can’t just do that and do away with period leave.

        11. Ellen*

          Interesting for me, because my “i don’t feel good” day is the day/days BEFORE I would have/would have had my period. Im 52, and will “break the unspoken societal rule” and say that this SUCKS for me, I have not had a period in 6 months, and, according to my mom, I may feel like this (sick, crazy, and like killing people every 30 or so days) for the next 20 YEARS, without a period. I don’t need leave though.

        12. TootsNYC*

          you don’t have to tell them why you AREN’T taking it. I wouldn’t take that day off ever, because I never had cramps. It just wouldn’t come up.

          And if disclosing that I was menstruating was a problem for me, I -could- just not take the day.

        13. Takki*

          I want to love period leave. I really do.
          BUT
          I hate period leave in the current climate. It could potentially be used against period having people down the line. There are some messed up Draconian laws being drafted to limit reproductive rights of uterus bearing people. If a person takes period leave for 6 months in a row, skip the leave for 2 or 3 because they’re feeling fine, then start taking it again, will someone look at it and suspect you’ve done something illegal? Will an investigation be started? Will it be tracked and reported to a state agency?
          The fact that ‘period leave’ has really started popping up/getting talked about in the US right when Roe v Wade is poised to be thrown out seems really… suspicious? IMHO, in the current climate, less information given to anyone in regard to periods is best. Also, I hate that I’m so suspicious of what should be a good thing.

        14. Jalee*

          Why would I have to tell them that? I have never had a bad period and both of my sisters were in bed for a week every month. Why do you think I have to explain why I am not taking the day?

        15. tamarak & fireweed*

          I think if I worked for that office that’s probably exactly what I’d do – be very out and loud about my hysterectomy and the ramifications of qualifying, or not, for period leave. There are other things I’d consider, though they have to be handled carefully to make sure they *only* hit the guilty. Like overhearable remarks and the like. I think an atmosphere of embarrassing those who abuse this provision is quite appropriate. (I recognize that this is hard to get right, and there’s a risk to it.)

        16. MCMonkeyBean*

          You’re not *required* to take period leave so there is no reason anyone would ever need to disclose that they don’t have periods. You could just… not take the leave. I have pretty regular periods but I’ve probably only had about 5 days in my working life where I had any pain bad enough that I would need to take advantage of this policy.

          But I agree just having more sick leave seems overall like a better way to handle it, but ultimately that’s not helpful to the letter writer who is trying to work with the laws and policies they have.

      2. Some Dude*

        Also, as a father and life-long cismale, I will happily give up an extra sick day to not have to deal with 40 years of menstruating and having to carry and deliver a child. Not to mention people who have no understanding of how your biology or sexual health works passing laws about it.

        These guys are being little brats and they need to cut it out.

        1. Coffee Bean*

          Thank you, Some Dude. I would have gladly given up sick days as a trade off for not having debilitating cramps.

          1. Third or Nothing!*

            Me too! Every last one of my sick days gets used up with super painful periods. I’m very lucky that I almost never get contagious diseases or have any other chronic illnesses, but that could change at any time. I don’t know what I’d do if it does.

            1. Slow Gin Lizz*

              Augh, that’s awful, Third. Thank you, Some Dude, for being an empathetic human being.

        2. Lady Luck*

          Thank you, Some Dude. As a cis woman, I’d rather just have a normal day at work than try to throw painful cramps/bleeding/etc. on top of it. And if I do have to take a day off because of it, I’m not exactly having fun.

      3. Caroline Bowman*

        My parents are both deceased to my everlasting sorrow, BUT HOW UNFAIR BECAUSE NOW I DON’T GET BEREAVEMENT LEAVE I WOULD HAVE HAD AND BOB IN ACCOUNTS GETS IT!! NO FAIR!.

        Why is there always, always one person who needs to opportunistically mine everything? Why?

        Imagine writing to HR and announcing that just because Wendy has ”mobility issues” she gets a bigger, dedicated parking spot while I don’t. NOT FAIR. ALL EMPLOYEES NEED TO BE TREATED PRECISELY EQUALLY. Madness. Some stuff just doesn’t apply.

        1. Lady Luck*

          Notice how the people yelling the loudest for equality only do so when they are affected in a way they don’t like, but not when they benefit and someone else gets the short end of the stick.

      4. JM60*

        The way I see it, this menstrual leave is sick leave, except it’s a type of sick leave that only applies for a particular bodily discomfort. I think it’s best to provide an ample amount of general sick leave to be used according to need, rather than provide more sick leave to people experiencing certain bodily discomforts over others.

        I don’t have menstrual cycles, but would want those who do to be able to take reasonable time off due to them. On the other hand, I have non-life threatening medical issues that cause me much misery (permanent nerve damage, severe bowel problems, etc). If other people are able to take time off for their menstrual cycles, but I feel like I can’t take time off for my bodily discomforts because it’s the wrong type of medical issue, I’d be a bit peeved that the policy is discriminating based on which medical issue is at hand.

        (To be clear, it sounds like the policy is being abused by the men in the letter, who do not have equal need for time off.)

        1. Anonys*

          I totally agree with you that I don’t think period leave should necessarily be seperated out from other types of sick (though I think a better solution than ample sick leave is just no sick leave like in many European countries – if you are ill, you are ill not matter when).

          However, I do think there is an “awareness raising” element to advocacy for period leave. Many menstruating people, even if they have generous or unlimited sick leave might feel uncomfortable taking time of so frequently or might worry about their boss noticing the “once a month” pattern – many women feel that because periods are a “normal” and recurring part of their cycles (and therefore not an actual sickness or medical condition) they should be able to soldier through and be able to manage life as normal. I think period leave is also aimed at normalising that in fact period pain is often severe (esp since conditions like PCOS and endo remain underdiagnosed) and a legitimate reason for not being able to work. So periods are a very specific type of bodily discomfort affecting a large part of the population but which is often dismissed. So imo it does make a lot of sense why people advocate for period leave (and not say for IBS sick days) but I agree that in practice specific period leave shouldnt be needed and comes with its own issues

          1. Mandolin*

            Yeah, I think it matters that chronic period pain is both extremely common and overwhelmingly limited to groups that are systemically oppressed on the basis of sex or, sometimes, gender identity.

            That makes period pain have a slightly different political implication–and possibly require a slightly different political solution–than most types of chronic pain.

            This is not to say that the issue is more important than the accommodation of other chronic pain issues which, after all, massively affect disabled people who fave severe bias in the workplace. Ableism in the workplace is a massive problem that demands attention. Some of its implications are more urgent than those surrounding the sexist implications of how we treat chronic period pain. I just don’t think the two issues are interchangeable.

          2. Sova*

            I don’t know the country or region that the OP is from, but there may be other reasons the legislation made it separate from sick leave.
            It not being part of sick leave may make it exempt from any sick leave requirements for a doctor’s note, because it is a pretty ridiculous burden to need a doctor’s note once a month- particularly if your period can cause temporary symptoms that can incapacitate you from a work day even when nothing pathological is going on with it that requires a doctor’s care.
            Some religions or cultures may also require some particular cultural or religious custom around menstruating that the law was meant to address that has nothing to do with being incapacitated by physical symptoms for work and the leave may have been intended to help mitigate the logistical difficulties around meeting those obligations around a work schedule.

        2. Mandolin*

          You should have time off for this!

          People who menatruate and suffer pain from it should *also* have time off for bowel issues.

          I know you’re not advocating otherwise.
          I think i agree with everything youre saying.

          But using your comment as a jumping off point, I have a bit of a concern that chronic pain disorders could be discussed as… like an alternative to period pain, as if the people who mensturate are getting accommodations for their chronic pain when they may well not be. A person with both problems would still be screwed over on the bowel issue.

          If we alter the accommodation simply to say “one day off for chronic body pain,” then people who.have difficult periods still have the shitty end of the stick. They’re not less likely to need acommodation for alternate chronic illnesses– given autoimmune and chronic pain rates in afab people, they may even be more likely to need it. If they only have access to a single accommodation day (which isn’t a great system perhaps, which i think was the original point im jumping off from) then people with difficult periods will still be at a systemic advantage because it “uses up” their chronic pain accommodation. And since chronic period pain affects exclusively ( ish — Some trans women e.g. get migraines associated with hormonal birth control which I’d include in period pain) afab people who menstruate, an overwhelming number of whom are women, this system doesn’t do anything to alleviate systemic sexism in the workplace.

          (And, where period pain intersects with trans people’s needs, systemic trans- or queerphobia.)

          I fully support your chronic illness being better accommodated. I offer the same support to menstruating people with period pain who also have other chronic pain issues.

        3. tamarak & fireweed*

          Well, this may be exactly the reasonable way to look at it from the US perspective, but this company has to work in local paradigms, and sick leave has doubtlessly its own, different definition.

          This said, it could be used as a cudgel to get the wayward American cis-gendered men into line.

        4. MsClaw*

          Yeah, I think the problem with having specific ‘period leave’ that allows some people to take a day each month off? That’s 12 extra days. 2.5 weeks of extra leave each year. I can absolutely see people being resentful of that if they aren’t given equivalent paid time off.

          I mean, I’m a woman who doesn’t really have tough periods most of the time, but if my company gave me twelve PTO days a year I could only use for that purpose? You best believe I’d use them.

          One difference versus something like FMLA is that’s unpaid. Jury duty leave or bereavement leave – those typically aren’t frequent.

      5. TootsNYC*

        and I wouldn’t be eligible because, even though I’m a woman who menstruates, I never have cramps to speak of.
        I mean, I guess I could lie, but I wouldn’t.

    2. Anonys*

      If the company must extent this benefit to all employees, surely it can be specified that is only to be used for sick leave? As in: if employees need one day a month off for pain, doctors appointments or other medical symptoms this will not be taken from the annual sick leave allowance. I feel like this might still be possible within the local law and would prevent someone taking the day for pre planned vacation – all employees just basically get an extra sick day a month. Surely with the way the period leave is enshrined in the law in op’s country it’s also not ok for menstruating women to take it as a pre planned vacation? It is clearly a sick day, just for a very specific type of feeling sick. So OP’s company imo should keep it a sick day but if they feel they must extent to all employees instead of a “free day no matter what”

      Also with regard to Point 1 in the letter – i personally wouldnt love having to invoke a particular leave category that makes it obvious i am menstruating. I know OP says we disclose we are sick anyway when taking a sick day – but you dont usually have to disclose what you are sick with. Suffering with period pain is imo just a specific type of being sick and there are quite a few countries where there is no such thing as set sick leave time and you are just out whenever you are sick whether period or not. The law in OP’s country is obviously what it is and it’s always positive to write more women friendly laws but I dont agree with OP that “I need period leave” is equivalent comfort/privacy wise to the more generic “I am unwell and need to take a sick day”.

      1. Good Enough For Government Work*

        I think this is a good call, actually. People get one additional sick day per month, only to be used *should they need it*.

        Improves life for those who might not have periods (or problems related to them; most months I’m okay, some I literally cannot stand upright) but might have other health conditions, while stopping the healthy cis men from taking the piss like this.

        1. Despachito*

          “People get one additional sick day per month, only to be used *should they need it*.”

          This seems a pretty fair solution.

          1. Working Hypothesis*

            “Our sick leave policy is one day in every month as per X country’s legal period day requirements, plus Y additional days per year. Sick leave may be taken when ill, injured, in pain or physical discomfort due to bodily processes, nursing an immediate family member who is suffering from any of the above, or to attend medical appointments. Details will not be required when reporting the need for a sick day.”

            Sounds plausible to me. I *think* it would meet the local law (or could be written to meet it by lawyers if my half-assed amateur version doesn’t do it), it would definitely meet American antidiscrimination standards, and it would reinforce that these are SICK days, to be taken in case of medical need.

            Doubtless there would still be people who abuse them, but there are always occasional people who abuse sick days, and you have to ignore that because there’s no way to prevent it which doesn’t also produce a chilling effect on people using their sick days properly for what they’re intended for.

            But at least it would be making clear how they’re *expected* to be used.

      2. Kella*

        This was my thought as well. Giving one day a month where you can take a day off with very little notice, for sick leave, no questions asked. Then, if you suspect someone is abusing that privilege and using their sick days for vacation, you address that the way you normally would.

      3. Anonys*

        I did some research and based on some details I think it’s likely the OP is in Zambia, where this has been a law since 2017. The law has the sam vagueness OP described and is commonly called mother’s day which is quite unique.

        The following quote is from a BBC article on the law:
        “Labour Minister Joyce Nonde-Simukoko, a former trade union activist, tells me that Mother’s Day was initially informally observed in the 1990s before eventually being brought into law.
        But she has stern words for anyone thinking of using the entitlement to bunk off work:
        “If you absent yourself yet you are found in a disco house, then it will not be taken as Mother’s Day.
        “You shouldn’t even leave town, be found doing your hair or shopping. You can be fired. For example, somebody was found farming after taking Mother’s Day and she was fired.”
        One of the problems with the law is that it does not make this explicit, leading to confusion among employers and employees alike.”

        Based on that, if OP’s company just extents the day to male employees, they should still be able to discipline the guy who went on vacation. Though again it sounds like the law is vague on this – but it sounds like defo in line with the law if the company makes in clear in their internal policies that anyone (male or female) who misused the day off will be disciplined.

      4. Catherine*

        I suspect due to some nuances of how much leave is allotted etc that I am in a different country from OP, but my country (Japan) also has period leave. I don’t need to disclose to my managers that I am taking period leave and can just say I’m sick, but then I mark the day as period leave instead of regular sick leave in our timecard system. Thus, only Payroll sees that I was out for period reasons and I don’t ever discuss it with my bosses.

    3. Barbara Eyiuche*

      South Korea has this law. When I lived there, I did ask women whether they felt embarrassed to use the leave, since it meant letting everyone know you were menstruating, but in general they said they were fine with it. If they didn’t need it, because of menopause, pregnancy, a hysterectomy, or because they didn’t have difficult periods, they didn’t use it. One justification for why women potentially got an extra day off a month and men didn’t: women were paid less than men, not just in a general, statistical way, but in the same company doing the same job; another was that for hourly workers, they didn’t actually get paid for the period day if they took it off. Both might have changed since I lived there, but in general South Korea is pretty hard on employees.

    4. June*

      If men had bad menstrual cramps for ONE hour there would be telethons. SMMC. Stop Male Menstrual Cramps!

      1. whingedrinking*

        My partner will, now and then, get horrific leg cramps that result in him waking up screaming in the middle of the night.
        We were once at a party the day after this happened and he mentioned it within earshot of an acquaintance (note that I do not use the word “friend”), who nodded sympathetically and said that sounded totally awful, even though it had never happened to him personally. This same guy was known to complain about his girlfriend curling up in bed during her period, saying it “couldn’t be that bad”.
        I wished to kick him in a tender place and say, “Oh come on, it can’t be that bad!”

    5. Beth*

      Yeah, even without being a lawyer, the legal logic here is obviously flawed. US employment law doesn’t apply to people working outside the US, even if the company is headquartered there. The local law is what matters.

      If the company truly cares about equality, then maybe some men should be getting the day off–specifically, trans men who menstruate. But giving it wholesale to cis men definitely feels like a “white history month,” “straight pride,” etc gesture. And claiming that it’s required because the company is based in the US is so transparently an excuse. Like, come on, don’t lie to us and act like we’re too stupid to notice–just admit that you either wanted to give men an extra day off to have fun while menstruating people are stuck feeling under the weather, or that you think menstruation isn’t that bad and women are lying about how much it sucks to get extra time off.

  2. Blue*

    Yeah even not considering the international facet of this, legal’s interpretation of the law is very silly. There are many types of leave that don’t apply to everyone all the time – bereavement leave, parental leave, excused absences for jury duty…Kim getting an unexpected two days off this month because she was summoned does not entitle me to two days off so I can go to the beach. I also wonder if this will lead to increased expressions of misogyny and transphobia in the workplace that would be a way bigger issue from a U.S. law perspective…

    1. A Library Person*

      To your last point, it definitely sounds like the specific coworker LW mentioned is emphasizing his misogynist point of view in his use of the leave. It would make me very uncomfortable.

    2. pancakes*

      There’s no good reason whatsoever for the legal department to not consider the international facet here. It is central to the question of whether and how to extend the policy to US workers. Conflict of laws is an entire class in law school. It was an elective at mine, but the legal department here somehow seems unaware it even exists, as a body of statutory and case law. I don’t know why but they’re badly bungling this.

      1. Calliope*

        Presumably they considered it and then went very risk adverse for some reason. I agree the end result is stupid but I have no reason to think the legal department of this international company isn’t even aware of conflict of laws rules.

        1. pancakes*

          I don’t think they are being risk-averse in making a garbled mess of this policy. This just isn’t what taking extra care looks like.

        2. Working Hypothesis*

          The problem is, they didn’t actually go risk averse. They went averse to one *particular* risk. Not coincidentally, I think, the risk they chose to avoid was that of pissing off an extremely privileged group that’s socialized to be aggressive in defending whatever they perceive as their rights: American men.

          There are many other risks associated with the policy they’ve chosen to implement, including the risk of getting into legal trouble in their second country of operation (as Alison pointed out in the last section of her response) and the risk of being left in the lurch on a regular basis by people who don’t have periods and therefore select their extra days off for fun, because the popular days off for fun are likely to be similar for everyone, so they’re apt to lose large chunks of their male workers on the same days as each other, with no ability to control it the way they could control access to vacation days when too many people had already taken that day off.

          They haven’t considered these risks, as far as I can tell. I’m not sure whether they’re aware of them and simply believe that American men are so aggressively litigatory that it’s worth placating them at any cost, or whether they’re subconsciously more comfortable prioritizing the concerns of American men, and generally more aware of/focused on these. But either way, I think they’re getting into way more risks than they’re getting out of by doing this.

            1. Tuppence*

              It’s clear from the letter that the branch is not in America. It is not clear whether the man in question is an American who has relocated to the country in question, or someone from that country. However, the legal team definitely is in America and it is reasonable to assume that the group they are concerned about placating is, indeed, American men.

    3. Siege*

      Yeah, I’m not a parent but my org offers at least three months’ paid leave (it might be six). I guess under this interpretation of the law I can tell my boss I’ll be out on parental leave for the summer.

      OP, you obviously know this, but if the law was intended to be fair to everyone, it would apply to everyone. Also, you are totally welcome to pettily push back on this guy by saying that I, Siege, have a regular 27-day cycle so he can only take this leave every 27 days, not any extra day he happens to want off. Then schedule his performance review for 27 days after his last use of period leave.

      1. Bread Addict*

        I like this. I mean its meeting petty with petty. But some guys would definitely not consider cycle lengths and take it 2 weeks apart or something. Flag that shit.

        1. Caroline Bowman*

          Yes!! If he tries it again too soon, definitely flag it with utter sincerity ”Brad I’m concerned…”

    4. Melicious*

      This seems like your best argument for legal. There are lots of types of leave that are available to all employees but most employees do not quality to take it. See bereavement and parental leave.

    5. Putting the Dys in Dysfunction*

      I wonder how this advice went down. The “legal division” may be one idiot attorney somewhere whose work was not checked by anyone, or it may have been multiple levels of management, all of whom are both idiots and misogynists.

      Did OP make the inquiry himself (I believe OP is male)? Did anyone in OP’s management say anything other than OK, Legal says we’re stuck? OP’s management should push back on this, now, at the highest level they can, to get this really poor bit of legal analysis redone by someone with common sense.

      1. Sova*

        My cynical heart wonders if the legal department that came up with this could be entirely made up of JDs from an ultraconservative law school in the US.

    1. lost academic*

      They will if we stop enabling them, hiring them, promoting them and lord knows, raising them. But it’s painfully slow.

      1. Properlike*

        And making them managers, since that seems to be the makeup of the Americans on the team that OP’s with.

      2. Keeley Jones, The Independent Woman*

        I only have sons, and my 16 year old and I had a very lengthy conversation on what’s going on with SCOTUS and why he needs to care. Thankfully we laid the groundwork years ago and he was as upset as I was. However, I do see far too many of my white mother peers all “it’s too hard to be a while male these days!!” Ugh, no, no it isn’t.

        1. Veryanon*

          Right? I remember when the whole Brett Kavanaugh thing went down, and the man I was seeing at the time didn’t (a) understand why I was upset and (b) actually had the temerity to suggest that as the mother of a young adult white male, I was doing my son a disservice not to adopt a “boys will be boys” mindset. Needless to say, I am no longer involved with that person, and my son, now a 22 year old college graduate, fully understands issues of consent and why people are upset about SCOTUS. He’s not perfect, but I feel like I’ve done the best I could to make sure he’s a man that will treat partners in a safe and respectful way.

          1. TangerineRose*

            Good for you! I don’t understand why he doesn’t understand how dangerous it is to adopt a “boys will be boys” mindset. it’s not good for the “boys” either.

        2. Dust Bunny*

          OMG no, it’s not–they just haven’t had millennia of practice at having their rights curtailed. The rest of us learned a long time ago how to navigate that.

        3. Starbuck*

          It’s a shame though that these conversations are still falling on the shoulders of mothers. Why aren’t fathers stepping up to break the cycle and educate their sons? That’s part of the problem. I’m not trying to say you’re doing anything wrong in particular – but I feel like I still hear so much more from mothers talking about how they’re being careful to raise their sons to respect women, and not really from fathers making that same commitment.

          1. Working Hypothesis*

            Lots of cis men care, and can help teach. But often, they weren’t taught well themselves and have had to pick up the principles themselves as adults. And even those who were taught often miss some details that aren’t missed by anyone who’s had to live on the wrong end of misogynistic treatment personally.

            Which means that if we’re trying to move ahead as quickly and thoroughly as possible, the people who’ve had to learn most about the topic are going to have to do most of the teaching. It’s not fair, but it’s most effective. There are plenty of things I’m happy to leave to my husband to teach my son, but how to recognize and avoid perpetuating forms of misogyny that most of the world around him takes for granted is both too important and too difficult a skill for me to leave it to someone who doesn’t have the first hand experiential knowledge that I have.

            1. Keeley Jones, The Independent Woman*

              This explains it better than I can. My husband is great but his dad is (and my husband agrees) is your typical boomer male and so my husband and to learn a lot. And he did and he definitely leads by example, but defers to me on explanations on women’s equality. He’s also just naturally an introvert and doesn’t have to a lot to say about anything, and I’m the type if I have an opinion on something, you’ll know it.

      3. Mm*

        Yep, every time a company accomodates entitled men we kick the problem down the road – and unfortunately as those men move up the ladder they take the expectation of being accommodated with them. We need to set the standards early and often.

      1. PB Bunny Watson*

        I saw the title of the post and thought to myself, “Oh goodie, what fresh hell is this??”

      2. Ailsa McNonagon*

        Me too… I bet myself a quid it’s a white, cishet, middle-aged man too. There’s a strong scent of misogyny in the air at the moment.

        1. lost academic*

          And do the “but so and so is so good at *primary job responsibility*” So would plenty of other people who aren’t dragging down the rest of the company and team, so find someone who’s a net positive instead.

      1. pancakes*

        A handful of cranks would be no match for a widespread commitment to equity. We have never had that. The letter writer’s company doesn’t have it either. They seem to have a very confused legal department, which seems to me to be the main problem. The existence of the tedious guy doesn’t actually require these contortions.

    2. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

      Home from a very painful and needed operation on uterus to hopefully stop my severe pain (gonna be offline for a while, this is gonna need recovery) and frankly any guy who thinks this kind of pain is ‘normal and easy’ can frikkin have it.

      Luckily my husband is a staunch feminist and really wouldn’t dream of trying to be entitled. Coz right now I have no filter.

      (Stay safe everyone, I’m going to sleep for about a week. I’m ok)

      1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        Look forward to seeing you again in due course. Glad you have a sensible human looking after you.

    3. Observer*

      Entitled men just won’t go away

      I think you are blaming the wrong people here.

      It’s just idiotic that someone decided that this has to be given to everyone. And as Alison pointed out, it may actually create legal problems for them. But I have a hard time blaming someone for taking advantage of a benefit someone handed them, even though it was a ridiculous idea.

      1. Fushi*

        Eh. Since women in countries with period leave have no problem avoiding taking advantage of it since we know that could have a negative effect on others who need it, I feel pretty comfortable blaming the inconsiderate man in this case. Especially because he seems to be taking some pains to be as awful as possible, I would hate not to recognize his efforts.

  3. Abby*

    Tell them they can have leave when they have a period. If it is like America and you can sack people at will then do it, you need a professional staff. I would talk to them one time and then explain there will be consequences if that is what they want. I had a severe medical condition that caused excruciating pain when I was on my period. Painkillers didn’t work. My iron level was so low doctors insisted I was pregnant (impossible at the time)! I luckily recovered a lot with age. I thought I would never wish that on anyone. But for this lot…..

    1. Abby*

      I read the response afterward but you are a manager and I think you are in a role where you can push back. Start off with Allison’s letter. See if you can contact the relevant people at the office in the US. I assume it will be HR or someone high up. Byt do push back.

    2. RagingADHD*

      I get the sentiment but in practice the problem with that is, are you going to demand that people prove they’re having a period? That’s way worse than this one guy being an ass. Way, way worse.

  4. lost academic*

    I wonder if this needed to be framed as a type of disability accommodation instead of extra standard leave, as Alison mentions. Standard or intermittent FMLA leave is also open to all employees (assuming the law applies to the company etc) but they need qualifying events or conditions to access it. Setting up this policy along similar lines might help with the “whataboutME?!” reactive attitudes we regrettably see in certain people. But I have zero experience in any of this and don’t know if or how that could work.

    1. Nanani*

      That’s still tryign to retrofit another country’s laws into a US framework though.
      They need to shut the whataboutism down full stop.

    2. I should really pick a name*

      Framing a natural body process as a disability is probably something that should be avoided.

      1. zuzu*

        And yet sometimes that natural body process is disabling.
        My migraines are a natural body process, and yet: sometimes disabling.

      2. turquoisecow*

        Pregnancy is definitely natural and yet when you go on leave for pregnancy it’s called disability.

      3. Doing the best we can*

        It should be framed as medical condition. Dysmenorrhea is a medical condition.

        1. Sova*

          It’s possible to have a really bad period without meeting the medical definition for a pathology that requires medication or a doctor’s care, though. I can usually do my office job with cramps if I feel it coming on and get ahead of it with some tylenol and a heat patch. But if I wake up in the middle of the night with back pain and cramps and just cannot get enough sleep to be able to function the next day, that’s a whole different situation and not one that really involves me needing to have a discussion with my doctor about a medical condition.

      4. Super Duper*

        FMLA is (unpaid) medical leave, anyways. Its totally separate from ADA accommodations. But I agree with the commenter above that it’s not stigmatizing or inherently wrong to say that medical conditions can be disabling. “Natural” does not mean healthy or desired.

      5. Lizzianna*

        It’s a double edged sword, though.

        For some menstruating people, a period is not disabling.

        For some, the symptoms that come along with it (cramps, fatigue, migraines) can be.

        The problem is, the medical community for a long time has not taken those symptoms seriously, because it’s a “natural process.” I know many women who have had to fight their doctors and supervisors tooth and nail to get them to take their monthly, debilitating pain seriously.

        This law may not be perfect (exclusion of trans and non-binary people, blanket approach to all menstruation when that may not be 100% appropriate – there are many months I can take a couple advil and be fine, there are other months I have a debilitating migraine) but it is attempting to correct for the fact that women have fought for decades to have their medical concerns taken seriously.

        1. Siege*

          Yeah. I might take the leave anyway to help normalize it, despite not having a debilitating period at all. Disability can’t be perceived by outsiders as an inherently bad thing, and we also shouldn’t get all toxic positivity about how they can’t be disabling, they’re ~natural~.

        2. NeedRain47*

          The reason the medical community hasn’t taken it seriously is b/c the medical community has been largely made up of and controlled by people who do not have periods. It’s sexism.

        3. Cathryn*

          I think its important to recognise that, as is so often the case, women have this sorted. Didn’t the original poster say that women in her culture only took this leave when they needed it? This is much more a cultural problem than a gender one imho. People in her culture have come up with a good solution to a difficult problem, and legalistic and overbearing American HR bods are seriously breaking it.

          1. Period Leave OP*

            Yes, exactly this. It was working perfectly fine until some guy (I imagine) in an office across an ocean decided that whataboutism is something we should accommodate. Men in locally owned companies have not complained en masse about not having access to period leave. But since ours has this wacky policy, some of the locally employed men have suddenly become men’s rights activists. *eyeroll*

            1. TransmascJourno*

              I’d actually like to bring up another possibility here: that maybe the person from your company’s US headquarters was concerned that people who aren’t cis women and have periods (i.e., trans men, nonbinary people, etc) would not be able to utilize this mandated benefit, despite experiencing the same debilitating symptoms once a month. Reframing it that way might also help refocus on the fact that the issue regarding the one cis male employee is an instance of taking advantage of sick leave versus PTO, more than anything.

        4. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

          It’s taken me 20 years to convince the NHS that this level of pain is not normal and I want it to stop. ‘Oh cramps are just natural’ is what I’ve heard from soo many managers, HR, doctors, consultants. It’s not normal to be screaming.

          1. Working Hypothesis*

            Labor pain is natural too, but nobody seriously argues that you should be trying to work while you’re experiencing it.

      6. Thegreatprevaricator*

        Pregnancy is a natural body process only affecting a section of the population that (in the Uk at least) has specific protections and leave associated with it. Natural, yes, also sometimes disabling. Many disabilities are ‘natural’, but require reasonable adjustments or specific leave in the workplace.

        1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

          Hit submit too soon.

          Disability is natural and involves natural body processes. Pain and mobility issues are natural body processes due to other natural body processes. Neurodivergance is a natural body process. Mental health issues are due to natural body processes. Why would issues surrounding periods be any different? Because you assume periods are universal? Pr period problems are universal? Not everyone who has a period has problems. Not everyone with a uterus has periods.

        2. Esmae*

          Honestly, you could have left it at this! “Disability” and “naturally occurring” aren’t mutually exclusive.

      7. HelloHello*

        A lot of the processes my body has decided to undertake naturally are very disabling to me, and I am perfectly happy to label them disabilities

        1. Dramatic Intent To Flounce*

          Yeah, my body decided to attack its own collagen because, near as we can tell, it’s genetically predisposed to it. My wonky immune system is probably also a contributing factor in endometriosis. I will probably need surgery to deal with my debilitating period pain. That makes it a disability by any reasonable standard I can think of, natural process or no.

          It’s obviously variable, both in terms of ‘some people get consistently manageable periods, some people are utterly wrecked’ and ‘some cycles are manageable but others are really, REALLY bad.’ Variable disabilities are still disabilities, though, and the difference between ‘oh everyone struggles with math’ and dyscalculia is that not everyone struggles with math so much they have trouble remembering days of the week or months. Most people can have an issue but find it tolerable and that issue can still be disabling for people who have a severe version of it. (And while dysmenorrhea is fairly common, all told, that just means we need to acknowledge it’s a problem and people need effective care for it. Glasses are common and highly normalized, but that doesn’t mean they’re not an accessibility device for something that’d otherwise be disabling.)

      8. Student*

        Menstruation can be disabling. It isn’t always disabling, but it can be. Most of my menstruation now is a non-issue, fortunately, but I had severe issues when I was younger and I occasionally still have a very bad bout.

        I had one particularly bad experience with cramps within the last year that woke me up at night in agony. I went to the emergency room; I was worried an organ was failing or that I had kidney stones or something. Nope, just Aunt Flo saying hi!

        When I was young, I’d occasionally have multi-day agony cramps, and on the worst of those days I couldn’t reliably walk due to the pain. I remember a handful of times crawling from a couch or bed to the bathroom and back. It was painful and humiliating when it happened, but at least my parents didn’t try to force me to get through a day of school with it on top of everything else. I’d have been in the nurse’s room immediately.

        Other women have different experiences, it’s very personal and individual. Some have horrible issues throughout their life, others go through menstruation mostly without issues.

        Pretending that menstruation is not a big deal is harmful to people who actually go through it. Just because it’s natural doesn’t mean it’s not painful, and just because it’s natural doesn’t mean we shouldn’t avail ourselves of any medical options to make it better. Kidney stones are natural, allergies are natural, arthritis is natural, headaches are natural; we aren’t expected to suffer silently through those.

      9. Ann Onymous*

        Framing all period symptoms as normal instead of a disability is also something that should be avoided. The severity of cramps, fatigue, and other period symptoms can vary widely from person to person. People with severe menstrual symptoms don’t always discuss them with their medical providers, and medical providers don’t always take them seriously when they do, because they believe it’s “natural and normal”. I lived through 11 years of truly debilitating menstrual cramps (7-9/10 on the pain scale vs. 5/10 for actual broken bones) before I realized it wasn’t normal. And thank goodness my doctor took it seriously – things are much better now!

        1. Kayem*

          I’ve been through a ridiculous number of doctors before I found one that took me seriously about my periods being so debilitating that working was out of the question. None of the cisgender men doctors did, the first doctor to take me seriously and all the doctors since who took me seriously since then were women (trans and cisgender). The dude doctors were all “have you tried losing weight?” and “maybe you should take fish oil” because it couldn’t possibly be something was wrong. The first woman doctor immediately sent me to a specialist and several months later, I could function again. It was such a simple fix, but the dudes dismissed it as just a normal part of life because they knew squat and didn’t care to learn beyond that.

          Not that I’m still bitter over the lost time of my life or anything…

          1. Robin Ellacott*

            I’m so sorry… this seems horribly common, and something similar happened to a friend of mine. I hope there’s going to be some – overdue – improvement in how doctors are trained.

            We have a senior staff member who is cursed with both debilitating cramps and monthly migraines. She’s having trouble convincing her doctors to do a surgery that would solve the issue but make her unable to bear children, because she has no children and IS SHE SURE??? Thankfully we do have a generous sick time policy but just like any illness, the only sane reaction is to support her taking what she needs and be glad I don’t need it.

            This is exactly like “straight pride day” and all those other entitled demands by people who haven’t had to deal with adversity.

            UGH.

            1. Slow Gin Lizz*

              Oh, man, I hate that “IS SHE SURE???” attitude about women wanting kids. Maybe trust her judgement on that one???

              Also, my comment to Kayem that I made earlier full of curse words didn’t make it through moderation (it was pretty rant-y, so I’m not surprised) but anyway, I’m irate about your doctors and your lost time. I hope you are able to make up for the lost time, Kayem.

              1. Kayem*

                I’m so happy my GYN didn’t do that. She assumed I meant it when I said I wasn’t having children. Which was a novel experience for me at the time.

          2. Lizzianna*

            My sister had a similar experience. Ironically, her cis female doctors didn’t take her seriously (“it’s just PMS! Deal with it!”), it took a cis male doctor to actually listen to what she was describing and not lump it in as “normal PMS”.

      10. Princess Xena*

        Maybe, but it would effectively get folks to knock it off about ‘whataboutism’ if you frame as an extra 12 days of leave to deal with a chronic pain condition instead of calling it ‘menstrual days’ and gendering it more than it has to be. Because at the core of it that’s why this leave should be used. It’s not because women are somehow frailer while menstruating, it’s because for a few days a month we are in significant pain that makes it hard to focus on anything else.

      11. Cambridge Comma*

        Cancer is pretty natural, for example. It’s the receiving treatment and often not dying that’s unnatural.

        1. quill*

          Cancer essentially exists because our tissues can heal themselves… and via genetic and chemical processes sometimes they DON’T STOP and you have to go kill and remove them.

      12. JSPA*

        1. having a period is a natural body process. Having a period so extreme that you need a day off is an often-treatable condition that is–by definition–temporarily disabling.

        2. Framing disability as unnatural is a false duality, and also something to be avoided.

        Walling off “disability” as something that “normal” people with “normal bodily processes” will not “normally” need has become a useful legal distinction in the specific context of US disability law. But the flip side is, that it is problematically “othering.”

        When you’re in some other context, where disability simply means, “not currently able to do the task in question” (and where people who have needs, get those needs met!) the balance shifts towards “unhelpful.”

      13. Caroline Bowman*

        Yeah no it shouldn’t because natural bodily functions can lead to all kinds of disabilities, usually temporary, thankfully. Take pregnancy for example.

      14. yala*

        I mean, my cramps aren’t always so bad that I can’t work. But when I was younger, they were often disabling. There were at least two times when two separate managers took one look at me and told me to go home.

        Like, if you have cramps so bad you can’t stand up, then that’s a disability. Ideally it *shouldn’t* happen, just like immune systems shouldn’t make people sick, but for a lot of folks, it does.

        I think framing it as such would also potentially remove some of the feel of the gendered element from it (thinking less about cis men being whiny, and more about trans men being able to just call it disability leave. I know at least one who would be more comfortable with that)

      15. Kella*

        Only if your definition of “disability” is “broken” and not “state where your physical or mental needs are incompatible with society’s requirements of you”. Needing time to rest after a surgery or injury is a natural body process. Genetically inherited disabilities are natural body processes. Getting the flu is a natural body process. Medical conditions of all shapes and sizes ARE NATURAL BODY PROCESSES. They exist in 100% of bodies.

      16. DataSci*

        That’s pretty ablist.

        Many disabilities are the result of natural body processes. What should be avoided is stigmatizing “disability”.

      17. Minimal Pear*

        My period actually is disabling! Not the symptoms that come with it, but the actual fact that my period exists in and of itself. As far as I know I don’t have anything like PCOS or endo, but because of some other health issues, my period itself disables me.

      18. Ice and Indigo*

        Disability is also a part of someone’s natural bodily processes.

        I don’t need a mobility aid because I have engram aliens poking my back; I need it because my body’s natural processes limit my mobility. My son doesn’t have special needs because he has a vaccine needle permanently sticking out of his brain; he has them because he was naturally born that way.

        We really need to lose the idea that ‘disability’ is an insult and ‘natural’ only refers to nice things. A body hurting is just about the most natural thing in the world.

    3. turquoisecow*

      I was thinking what if it’s framed as an extra day of Sick leave that the employee must have some sort of symptoms to use. That way women don’t have to advertise their menstrual status to the world and men can use it if they have some other kind of recurring chronic illness and are low on sick time. The guy who used it as vacation time is clearly violating the spirit as well as the letter of the law – it’s intended to give women a day to recover from somewhat debilitating discomfort or pain – even if we take the gender out of that statement, he’s abusing the system, and I feel like OP would be justified in being upset if a women did something similar. (We’ve all encountered people who used sick time to go to the beach on a Friday or whatever and were justifiably unhappy about the unfairness of it.)

      1. ferrina*

        I like the idea of having a monthly day that can be used for any debilitating condition. This could be period symptoms, migraines, mental health conditions, gout….whatever you need. Maybe have that available to employees who can get a doctor’s note saying that they have a chronic condition that may require sporadic time off, but not say what the condition is.
        This doesn’t solve the problem of women having to prove that they’re in pain (which has real repercussions on health outcomes), but it does give more space for bodies to be bodies.

        1. yala*

          Yes, very much like that. Chronic conditions and flare ups aren’t limited to gender. There are already sick days, sure, but folks with chronic conditions can go through the pretty fast just living their lives, and it’s harder to stock up for if an emergency happens

    4. pancakes*

      “Setting up this policy along similar lines might help with the ‘whataboutME?!’ reactive attitudes we regrettably see in certain people.”

      Can we back up for a moment and talk about why you think those attitudes need to be a central consideration in setting workplace policy? They certainly don’t have to be.

  5. Wolfie*

    I lived in this country (or another with the same period leave) – I was young and not fluent in the language, and couldn’t imagine ever going to my 50 year old male boss and requesting this leave. But it did seem kind of awesome that it was there in black and white in my contract.

    1. Nanani*

      This is why it basically doesn’t get used (I’ve also worked in a country with period leave) – plus the fact that anyone who uses it regularly would then need to be on guard should they abruptly not need it for several months. Firign people for being pregnant is illegal and yet common due to lack of enforcement.

    2. Paperback Writah*

      I had to Google– apparently there’s some form of this in India, China, Japan, Indonesia, and also Zambia.

    3. Good Enough For Government Work*

      I’m very lucky in that my boss (a grumpy cishet white guy in his fifties) is an absolutely lovely human being and we get on fantastically, because I did have to invoke this kind of leave last summer. I had my period (which, for anyone who doesn’t know, raises your core temp somewhat) on the hottest days of the year, and at the best of times I run very hot and don’t do well in high levels of heat. I needed to take a few days off and was feeling too awful and woozy to come up with a more tactful explanation, so phoned in sick and just… said what the problem was.

      My boss’s response was to tell me to take all the time I needed and share some tips his wife used to deal with the same problem. Love that man.

  6. Meaghan*

    They just shouldn’t call it period leave. Just call it sick leave and the men won’t take it.

    1. Person from the Resume*

      But legally it is different and in addition to the normal sick leave and/or paid time off.

      Company would likely be in violation of that nation’s laws if it just have everyone have an extra 12 days of sick leave a year and called it sick leave because they are legally obligated to offer women one period sick day a month.

      1. Tinkerbell*

        It shouldn’t be, though. Like, I get that this is supposed to offer help to people who have difficult periods, but right now it offers extra time off to all cis women (regardless of whether or not they get periods) and that IS unfair. I think it’s less like disability leave and more like giving parents extra time off to deal with kids that non-parents don’t get. Do the non-parents need it? No, but that doesn’t mean they wouldn’t appreciate the extra time.

        It would feel more equitable, to me, to give an extra 12 floating days off per year to ALL employees. It can be called period leave for the ones you’re legally required to, and “additional sick leave” for the ones you’re not… but it does seem unfair that even non-menstruating women could get an extra 12 (!) days off just by asking for it and men (even those who menstruate) can’t.

        1. londonedit*

          I agree. Also there’s so much nuance in the whole thing anyway – some people take a contraceptive pill/have a coil that means they don’t have periods, and some people run two or more packs of pills together so they only have a few periods a year. Some people suffer horrendously every month and some people breeze through with only a few mild cramps. And yet every cis woman gets to take a day off every month whenever they feel like it? That doesn’t seem fair to me. Give everyone ample sick time and don’t penalise people for ringing up in the morning and saying ‘I’m not feeling well enough to come to work’, but don’t tie it specifically to periods (or anything else that not everyone will be bothered by).

          (Also I know it’s vastly beside the point but *ugh* at the women in the OP’s office calling this ‘mother’s leave’. Having periods has nothing to do with whether or not you are/can be/want to be a mother, unless you are actually currently pregnant).

          1. Coquito*

            Allison mentions that there is a strict honor system in their workplace. So, yeah women could theoretically lying but to me, I don’t think they are. They have a valid concern that they could end up losing something that activists have worked hard for.

            1. londonedit*

              That’s definitely a valid concern (it sounds as if this is one benefit women *do* get in a place where historically they maybe haven’t had any benefits at all) and the point other people have made about other forms of leave (bereavement/maternity/paternity/adoption/etc) only being available to people who need them is also a good point. I suppose I’m coming at this from within the context of sick leave – sick leave is available to anyone who gets ill, and I don’t think employers should be able to start saying well, you’re allowed to take that day as sick leave because you have X or Y, but you’re not allowed to use sick leave because your ailment is A or B.

            2. TangerineRose*

              Doesn’t having miserable cramps count as being sick? I was fortunate in that area, but I know that some women have a hard time with it.

          2. Tuppence*

            You’re missing the point. Women don’t just “get to take a day off every month whenever they feel like it”. It’s clear from the letter that the employees “only invoke this leave category when they truly need it”.

            It’s basically an additional category of sick leave, specifically to be used to deal with symptoms of menstruation (which can be debilitating for some – not all – women and people who menstruate) without impacting the individual’s absence record or Bradford Factor score.

          3. doreen*

            About “mother’s day” – I was trying to determine if the reason for the leave was related to disability or possibly something else (difficulty in obtaining supplies or a cultural restriction of some sort ) and came across an article that said in one country , this leave is commonly referred to as ” mother’s day” because discussing menstruation is taboo.

          4. Caroline Bowman*

            So then they don’t take the leave. I cannot take bereavement leave for my parents because they died already. But Wendy down the hall can because hers are still alive. WHERE’S MY BEREAVEMENT LEAVE?

            Now we’re parsing out what a group of apparently quite ethical women are choosing to call a day off among themselves, because that’s the problem. No. No it isn’t.

            I don’t get disability benefit because I’m not disabled. I don’t get a dedicated parking spot either. I’m not pregnant so I don’t get paid time off to attend appojntments. IT’S NOT FAIR… and on and on it goes.

        2. Green great dragon*

          But LW says clearly women only take this extra leave if they need it for period pain. Yes, you could give everyone 12 extra days. But that’s missing the point – in this country, the law is that women who need time off for painful periods can take at least some of it while leaving them with the same sick and vacation time to spend on other illnesses and actual vacation as everyone else. You are suggesting moving back to a system where having painful periods requiring time off means you have less sick/vacation time for other things. Which is the case in most countries of course, but not here.
          (Completely agree with you re those with period pain who are not women.)

          1. Littorally*

            But it is not offered only to those with period pain. That is what it means to not require documentation.

            1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

              I mean, it was only offered to those with period pain until this company decided to mess with things.

              And what kind of documentation do you want in this case? Should people have to have a doctor verify that they’re a) on their period (which, how do you do that in a way that isn’t super invasive?), and b) in pain (which is subjective)? Alternately, we could just trust women about their own lives. Especially when LW’s experience is that people weren’t abusing it until this one jerk came around.

              1. Littorally*

                Functionally speaking, it was open to any woman willing to state she had period pain. Trusting women about their lives and experiences is the right move in that case, but doing so accepts that some women may use it when not experiencing period pain.

                Let me be explicitly clear: I think that is fine. I don’t believe documentation should be necessary. If a woman chooses to say she’s having cramps when she’s just so freakin’ done with her office and needs a day to breathe, that is entirely fine by me.

                I’m just so baffled by the people all up and down this thread who seem to think that “the women in OP’s company choose to use this policy rarely and selectively” with “only women experiencing period pain could possibly use this policy.”

              2. Green great dragon*

                Littorally, literally, no. People abuse sick leave, but it’s not ‘offered’ to people who aren’t sick. People shoplift, but goods aren’t offered for free.

                This is offered to people with period pain. A theoretical possibility that people could lie to claim it isn’t the same as it being offered to people on that basis.

        3. Anon for this*

          I take issue with the leave being considered discriminatory. Is it discriminatory to offer maternity leave to pregnant people? It’s a leave benefit not available to those who don’t get pregnant, and a much more significant chunk of time.

          1. Tinkerbell*

            We only offer maternity leave to people who are actually birthing a baby and/or acquiring a new child, though – we don’t just offer it without verification to anyone who calls up and asks for the time off. If this period leave was only able to be used by women (and trans men) who were actively menstruating, it would be different – but the company can’t, and shouldn’t, police it that closely. And so it’s a benefit that’s available to some workers and not others regardless of need.

            I wonder – the OP said that the women in their office only use it when absolutely necessary, but what would they do if they *did* have a female employee who took a day off per month for long weekends/extra vacation/etc and claimed it was period leave? That would be legal, but still problematic!

            1. Tuppence*

              I think Anon’s point was precisely that – obviously it’s not discriminatory to offer maternity leave only to those birthing or acquiring a baby, so the cries of “discrimination” are obviously nonsense.

              1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

                Yes, this. Specific leave for something that affects some people is fine. We do it all the time for other things.

            2. LDN Layabout*

              We only offer maternity leave to people who are actually birthing a baby and/or acquiring a new child, though – we don’t just offer it without verification to anyone who calls up and asks for the time off.

              Do you require an ultrasound? Or perhaps a doctor’s note would suffice? How do you verify someone’s entitled to maternity leave?

              1. lost academic*

                There’s standard paperwork that your OB-GYN usually fills out, which also gives them an opportunity to add in additional restrictions on activities. Many (US) companies use a third party service to handle the specifics around STD/LTD/FMLA/etc since handling it (and the state and local specific requirements) are an entirely different level of complexity then your HR generalist is usually experienced enough to handle correctly. It also gives an extra layer of separation between people you work with and your medical information.

              2. Peachtree*

                Yes – in the UK we have a specific form that a GP or midwife completes. So yes, there is a process for verification …

              3. Elizabeth the Ginger*

                I had to submit paperwork from my doctor, though I’m not sure what part of that was for the state-paid part of my leave and what would have been required my by employer. It was a very standardized form. In my case, my coworkers could also see that I was visibly and increasingly pregnant – which could have been faked though it would have been complicated. I didn’t need to show an ultrasound or anything like that; I think the form just confirmed that I was pregnant and what dates I needed to be out.

              4. Caroline Bowman*

                I’ve been pregnant and working on two continents and on both, there’s a form that your midwife or OB fills in that goes to the relevant HR dept, kicking off your maternity benefits, such as time off for appointments.

            3. Littorally*

              Strongly agree with your last paragraph. I don’t see any way to actually have this leave tailored to use solely by people with painful periods that isn’t stupidly intrusive into people’s lives, so maybe everyone should step back, chill, and address this particular dude on the issue of dipping out on an important meeting.

            4. shuu_iam*

              In most cases, people who take sick leave don’t need to offer verification that they’re sick. Companies that require doctor’s notes to take a sick day are generally viewed poorly on this site. It seems like your argument is basically that all sick leave and vacation leave should be bundled together, although in practice this leads to people coming to work sick to save their time off and/or being given fewer sick days (because the company isn’t giving generous sick leave to make sure employees aren’t screwed over in an emergency but instead has to assume everyone will take all possible days off.) But yeah – people with ovaries in countries with menstrual leave aren’t getting a special privilege by not having to prove themselves; that’s how all sick leave normally works.

          2. Miss Muffet*

            at least here in the US, “maternity leave” is just “short term disability” leave in most places. So in effect, it is the same leave that is available to anyone for whatever medical reason they might need (surgery or chemo treatments, or whatever). It’s nice to see that getting extended for more weeks at a lot of companies, and I think we do see a trend toward “parental leave” that includes fathers and adoptive parents. But at it’s core, mat leave is not just available to people who bear children because it’s not really mat leave.

          3. Mom of Boys*

            Maternity leave (where I’m located at least) is not just a significant chunk of “free leave”. It is using my already accrued leave (which is equal to every other employee’s allotment at my level) and will protect my job for a specific length of time until I can return to work (with significantly less leave now then my peers). There are rules about which accrued leave I have to use first – ie. all sick (I have a right to reserve some of this), then all personal, and then any additional leave I need beyond accrued leave goes on an unpaid status. So no, it’s not really an extra “perk” that pregnant people get. It can affect your seniority status if you have complications and have to be off longer than expected, you can be placed into a comparable job at a comparable level – not necessarily go back to the job that you left – and many times, does not qualify you for short-term disability benefits. It’s kind of ironic to describe maternity leave and this type of gender-driven medical leave as “discriminatory”. Neither one is really a picnic.

        4. pancakes*

          Whether it should or shouldn’t be is a question that has already been addressed by the country that legislated it. A US company doing business there doesn’t get to re-write local laws to suit itself.

        5. Student*

          See, I think it’s unfair that biology saw fit to inflict me with period cramps, and that men and AMAB women don’t suffer through period cramps the way I have to.

          You think it’s unfair that people suffering through a biological process that is occasionally very painful get a day off for it.

          We have profoundly different opinions on what “fair” means. It sure sounds like you want for yourself anything good someone else has, without having to take on the downsides that come with it. Period leave comes with period pain. You want one but not the other. Not sure what dictionary that definition of “fairness” comes out of.

          Where’s the community spirit? Where’s the recognition that sometimes we need to give people who are suffering a break because they are suffering, and that gives them the ability to participate better in society when we recognize and make room for their limitations? If your leave policy isn’t good enough to cover your needs, go fight for that, instead of trying to claw away leave from someone else.

          1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

            Hear hear! If I fall and need a few days off to recovery from injuries, that doesn’t mean that the rest of my team should also get days off. The whole reason I’d get some time off is to rest and heal. Why is it so different for period pain? I as this as a person who had period cramps so bad as a teenager that I was bedridden for 2 days a month and would throw up from the pain. Even with prescription painkillers. I was really worried I wouldn’t be able to hold down a regular job because of it. Fortunately, things calmed down when I got older. But if they hadn’t, I’d have been hella grateful for this leave.

            Though I would add that at least some trans women do get period cramps, even though they don’t menstruate. I think it’s related to taking estrogen for hormone replacement therapy. There is some sort of “cycle” that happens monthly.

          2. Elizabeth the Ginger*

            Yes. I have a coworker who got a cancer diagnosis a few years ago, and as a result repeatedly took several days off for chemo over the course of several months. Obviously no one said “Well if Betty is going to miss work, I want some more ‘free’ days off too, so it’s fair.”

            1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

              Or more currently relevant: a number of my coworkers have gotten covid this year and so had to stay home, both to recover and to quarantine. This has directly impacted me, also – as a teacher who was still here, I covered quarantining folks’ recess supervision duties and rearranged some class schedules to help out, not to mention that students who have a sub in their main classroom are often a bit squirrelier when they come to my specialist class. But I don’t feel like I’m owed a week off in exchange just because I haven’t gotten covid! Rather, I feel like what I’m “owed” is to be given the same flexibility and community-helpfulness if I find myself in the future in a spot where I *need* that help.

              1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

                Oh, good example. In 2020, my workplace was giving two weeks off for Covid. A few of my coworkers had to take it; including at least one key teammate during a busy period. How would it make me look if I turned around and said, “Wait, I never got Covid and I want my two weeks too! That’s not fair!”

          3. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

            And, anecdotally, I was on an online forum some 15-20 years ago where I witnessed a man saying that, as a manager, he prefers not to hire women, because “I’d rather not have an employee who’s clutching her stomach, in pain, and unable to give 100% at work several days out of a month.”

            Also, show of hands, who here has ever been asked by a man, “why are you so angry/upset? are you on your period or something?”

            They know. They know damn well how inconvenienced some of us are by our periods. At this company, for this male employee, it’s just convenient for him to pretend that he’s naive and has no idea.

          4. Lucie*

            Interestingly enough, trans women can get PMS symptoms / cramps if they’re on estrogen

        6. Kay*

          Yeah as a woman working in a male dominated industry, I kind of hate this idea and I would never take period leave.

          Plus even if trans guys are technically included, I doubt many trans dudes would be comfortable at all taking period leave.

          I’d much prefer a floating holiday.

        7. Person from the Resume*

          My point it, THE COMPANY CANNOT TAKE PERIOD LEAVE AWAY or transform it into something else by the laws of the country they are in. Even if you and everyone else thinks it’s not fair or not implented right, the company cannot not offer it.

          Changing the country’s law in not within the realm of something the LW can impact. And by the law, the company can’t just say period leave is no more but we’re giving everyone 12 extra sick days per year because the leagally required period day would not be offered and they would be violating the country’s law.

          I’m trying to focus on what the LW can fix and a national law which has nuiances you don’t think is fair is not something they can personally change.

        8. Irish Teacher*

          I don’t know if ye have parental leave in the US? In Ireland, we do, though it’s unpaid, which I guess may be why I have never heard non-parents complain about it. Parents are entitled to take up to 26 weeks for each child, up to their 12th birthday. As I say, being unpaid probably makes it a bit different, but it is a perk parents get and non-parents don’t because they don’t need it.

          1. I'm Just Here For The Cats!*

            unfortunately we don’t have legal parental leave of any kind in the US. this is why women often go back to work as soon as they are cleared by their doctor. You can take FMLA but it is unpaid and the maximum is 12 weeks.

    2. tamarak & fireweed*

      That’s not really an option. Just like a German company in the US can’t just not call FMLA leave by this name. It’s a legal thing in the jurisdiction they operate in.

      It might help to translate the local categories into something their US expat employees might understand…

  7. ThinkQuicker*

    Could you try framing it with legal specifically in medical terms. E.g. “Local law introduced period day as a way to medically accommodate women experiencing menstruation. That does not make it a discriminatory practice. Rather it should be viewed as something similar to an ADA accommodation. By giving non-menstruating team members the right to use this type of medical leave, the company is signaling that it does not care about female health issues and will actively work to undermine local legislation designed to protect women in order to benefit male employees”. (A bit of a stretch perhaps but maybe worth it to drive the point home?)

    1. CouldntPickAUsername*

      There’s no reasoning with people like this, no framing, no debating, no discussing. they will not be reasonable

      1. Generic Name*

        I agree. These are the same types who claim white Christian males are discriminated against despite the massive amount of evidence to the contrary. As long as they FEEL something is unfair, in their minds it IS unfair. You cannot use logic to persuade someone whose mind isn’t open to being changed.

    2. Lenora Rose*

      Is there a way to make this point while still being non-binary and trans male friendly? Because menstruation is a hugely long neglected medical issue that is chiefly female, but it does extend beyond cis women… and for that matter, doesn’t necessarily extend to cis women whose menstrual cycle isn’t debilitating.

      (I say as a cis woman who wouldn’t have needed this leave time more than about once in my lifetime but would really really have appreciated seeing some coworkers get it).

    3. Asenath*

      I assume it’s accommodating women whose menstruation is painful. It’s like sick leave that way; some will need it, some won’t, and some will need it for some of their periods and not for others. I personally think leave due to menstrual problems should be incorporated under sick leave simply to avoid all the implication that menstruation is always painful or always a disability. Sick leave also often applies to physical problems that only affect certain subgroups of humans and not all of them.

      The whole issue of a US-based business trying to enforce US legalities in another country is another kettle of fish.

    4. Gegdjfng*

      But by local law this policy is already extended to some non-menstruating employees (cis women on certain types of birth control, cis women over a certain age, trans women, etc) and denied to some menstruating employees (some trans men and NB folks). And there is no way to determine who “really needs it” without wildly overstepping.

      1. Jelly*

        I agree. Everyone is saying it’s based on an honor system that *totally works*. How can you know that the only people who have taken it have taken it for severe menstrual pain? You cannot.

    5. I'm Just Here For The Cats!*

      I think the OP Should take this wording straight to legal. From the sounds of it they haven’t spoken to legal and legal hasn’t said anything. I assume they have a member of legal who is from this country and therefore can speak about the nuances of the government. Who knows, they may be facing legal problems by also giving this time to men.

  8. Tired*

    The cis male coworker is being an ass. Still, it seems like it actually would be for the best if men can also take 1 unscheduled day off per month for any reason, right? That could make it easier for trans men to do so for their own periods, and also, it allows cis women to do so without having to announce to everyone that they are on menstruating. Putting too many rules on this just makes it less useful for everyone.

    1. Abby*

      It is the equivalent of a sick day. They are not sick. Do you take the mick and take time off work when you’re not sick? It is fine if you do, I don’t judge it. I’m just struggling to know why men would want this. Do women demand time off when men …… Oh wait! Men don’t have periods. They don’t get pregnant. They don’t have a watermelon being pushed out of their backside. What is the conclusion? Stop whining when you have it so ducking easy!!!!

      1. Tired*

        Some men do have periods and get pregnant. Also, I am a cis woman myself so I’m not sure why you’re yelling at me for having it “so easy.” I am literally disabled due to my reproductive system.

      2. Oakwood*

        “It is the equivalent of a sick day.”

        So a 55 year old male with arthritis should get fewer days than a healthy 30 year old female? Does that really seem fair?

        The solution is to up everybody’s sick days by one. Then it’s a sick day for everyone and not a hidden PTO day for men. And, everyone can use it as needed.

        I believe American corporations are required to follow US law in their overseas offices. Discrimination on the basis of sex is illegal under US law. The company needs to find a solution that is compatible with US law.

        1. Lenora Rose*

          If the healthy 30 year old is in debilitating, excruciating pain one day a month? Yes, she should have an accommodation for that day. The 55 year old man should be asking for his own medical accommodation if his arthritis is that big an issue, not complaining she gets something for an entirely unrelated reason.

          You also don’t know if she’s actually “healthy” beyond this. Invisible disabilities exist.

          1. Oakwood*

            “Invisible disabilities exist.”

            I think you are making my case.

            As you say, period leave doesn’t take into account people who have invisible disabilities. Extending the benefit to everyone would cover them too.

            Of course, some people who don’t need it would also be covered. But, do you want a policy that is too generous or one that isn’t generous enough?

            1. Working Hypothesis*

              But period leave isn’t meant for any and all disabilities; it’s meant for one specific one. There are plenty of other ways to take time off for other invisible ailments (I’ve become an expert in them, having a pervasive one). And if there aren’t enough ways in any given company to cover the ailments that people actually have, the solution is to expand forms that actually apply to those ailments, not to give everyone — sick and well alike — a single extra day a month to do with what they please. That is both unfair to those who have monthly ailments at all, because it means they don’t get their day for fun the way the healthy ones do, and ineffective for solving the problems associated with ailments that don’t come in convenient monthly packages.

          2. yala*

            But that seems like a good reason to make an extra day a month more neutral–something for chronic conditions, which can cover cramps, but also chronic physical or mental illnesses. It removes the gendered element of it (which also makes it less alienating to trans men and nb folks with periods), and makes it available for anyone who may have a condition that flares up semi-regularly.

        2. Siege*

          I mean, someone can try to enforce that, but I’d like to see a US company give American-standard vacation time to their non-US employees. It makes no sense as a statement. Are US companies expected to follow US laws around waste disposal, or does it seem more likely they’re required to follow stricter local laws?

          (Hint: the amount of leave required in the US is zero.)

        3. Asenath*

          If it is in fact correct that US corporations are legally obliged to follow US law in their overseas offices, someone in the US should look into the idea of national sovereignty. Surely they teach that in law schools.

          1. Oakwood*

            It is in fact the law that US corporation must follow US employment law in their foreign offices (at least when it comes to US citizens working in those offices).

            I posted a link to a write up in another post, but I’m not sure when it will be approved.

            As to national sovereignty, I’m sure the lawyers in the US government who have been applying the Civil Rights Act, FMLA, and the Age Discrimination Act for the past 60 years have a good handle on it.

    2. Gan Ainm*

      That would just be increasing the overall quantity of leave days, which was not the intent of the law. They already have leave / sick time.

      1. Gan Aithne, Gan Urlabhra*

        What’s so awful in just increasing sick days generally, working on the assumption that employees won’t take them unless they need to? Is there an important principle in separating period-related pain from other types of debilitating pain? Is it to avoid needing a doctor’s note?

        1. Other Claire*

          I think the main important principle is that this country has decided it should be separated out that way, apparently after significant political organizing by the women citizens of the country.

    3. A Library Person*

      But, as Alison points out, spending a day doing whatever because it’s a free day off is definitely not equivalent to spending the day curled up on the couch in pain and sick to your stomach. This leave is intended to deal with a specific medical condition that is (often, but not always!) regularly recurring and can be debilitating.

      1. Tired*

        I wasn’t saying it should be a free day off to do whatever. I am saying that if legally possible, it might be better not to over-police who is using it — even if that means cis men take advantage of something not meant for them — because it makes it easier for cis women and trans men to use it how they need to.

        1. Green great dragon*

          That has worked till now, because women do not use it if they do not need it, according to LW. It is broken now because some men are openly using it as a free day off.

          1. even more anon for this*

            The stairs aren’t broken because one of them is missing. Some people have been jumping over the missing stair, so it’s clear that the stairs aren’t broken (even though other people we don’t know about may have been avoiding going upstairs because they saw the stair was missing and didn’t want to chance it). It’s only broken now because someone didn’t jump over it.

            It can be a bad policy even if some people are “making it work”.

            1. Lenora Rose*

              This is the literal worst application of the missing stair metaphor I have ever seen. You’re saying that people with a uterus having a medical accommodation is literally the same as letting a predator hang out in your social group because nobody is willing to stand up and make a fuss.

              1. Red Wheelbarrow*

                I’m pretty sure the first paragraph of even more anon for this’s post is heavily ironic, while the second paragraph–“It can be a bad policy even if some people are ‘making it work'”–is straightforward and serious.

                1. Nameless in Customer Service*

                  The “Missing Stair” concept was coined to describe a predator in a group that the group didn’t discuss publicly or kick out. Link to follow.

              2. even more anon for this*

                No, I am not saying they are the same. I am using the same metaphor to describe something different. Metaphors can be applied to more than one thing.

          2. yala*

            I dunno, this kinda feels like it falls into the category of “yeah, there’s probably always going to be a nonzero amount of welfare fraud, but I’d rather let that happen than let someone not have something they need.”

            Because honestly, it almost seems like you could make that argument about sick leave in general. Some people genuinely need sick leave. Some folks use it like extra vacation. Some of the folks who genuinely need sick leave don’t always seem like they do from the outside either, so it’s kind of hard to judge and generally better to just trust folks.

        2. Claire W*

          Except that if the law says “Women get an extra day per month _that is not counted into their sick leave allowance or affects their leave in any way_ to deal with painful periods” and you just give everyone one more sick day… then you aren’t following the law.

          1. SpaceySteph*

            Yeah I’m not a lawyer and definitely not one in OP’s indeterminate country, but it does seem likely this is counter to the law which requires women be given additional leave; if everyone gets an extra 12 days of leave a year, women still should get 12 more than that, no? Allison’s suggestion to run it by a local lawyer is a good one because if they’re not currently complying with the law then its easier to tell this guy to F off.

            1. Despachito*

              But do we know how it is worded?

              In my country, the minimum statutory leave is X days, but if an employer wants to give you more, he can absolutely do this. So if this is the case in OP’s country, the employer would be liable to give everyone X days of leave plus another 12 to all women, but they would be free to add 12 days to men as well (as it would not be related to the womens’ leave but to the X amount)

        3. Critical Rolls*

          You definitely did say that: “1 unscheduled day off per month for any reason.” In the context of the cishet dude using it to extend his holiday weekend, A Library Person’s read of your comment is reasonable.

    4. Miel*

      Hmm, I think that broadening the benefit could lead to a lot of disruptions. If the company is equipped to have people randomly out, sure, but it sounds like they aren’t. And it sounds like women are very careful to only use this leave when absolutely necessary; not necessarily every month.

      “Women workers here use an honor system and take very seriously the need to only invoke this leave category when they truly need it for fear of ruining it for others.”

      1. yala*

        I mean. Even that’s a bit of an assumption. Can we be 100% sure that all of the women using the leave are having genuinely disablingly terrible cramps?

        I think you have to work in a little of “someone might take something they don’t deserve” into the build of anything like this. Yup, this one guy is being a pill just to prove his point. I guess if every single guy did that it could be a problem. But hopefully most of the people in the office aren’t jerks.

        Though if they broaden the leave, it would give that guy less of a leg to stand on, even by his entitled logic. Not saying that there aren’t people who think accessible parking is unfair, etc. But if the leave is available for all chronic conditions as opposed to one that only effects folks with uteruses, then there’s not as much of the Point To Prove that these guys love to make a big deal over. Like, yeah, this guy might keep taking that extra day off each month, but I think if you can trust the menstruating folks to not take an extra day off each month if they don’t need it, you should be able to trust the rest of your employees as well.

    5. 1.0*

      +100

      As a trans person I have literally 0 faith in companies handling it well when trans men ask for accommodations like this; applying a benefit like this to everyone is a good thing.

      1. Ceiswyn*

        Except that it’s not the same benefit.

        Women get an extra sick day at a time that is dictated by their body, which they spend dealing with cramps, or PMS, or bleeding through multiple towels depending on their personal biology.

        Men get an extra vacation day, that they can take when they like, to do with what they like.

        While it should be easier for trans men to get the day off, automatically applying it to everyone just perpetuates the fundamental biological injustice that women have some stuff to deal with that men just don’t, and no extra time to do it in.

        1. Kella*

          It would need to be a sick day if applied generally, not a vacation day for cis men and a sick day for folks with debilitating menstruation.

          But also, I think framing this as a binary men vs. women thing obscures the reality of the issue. Not all cis women are using this leave, only the ones who need it, when they need it. And not all the people using this leave are cis women. Trans men, nonbinary folks, and intersex people may also need it. The group of people using this leave have just two things in common: 1. They menstruate and 2. they need time off work to deal with the resulting symptoms. The distribution is weighted by *need* not be gender or sex.

          There are *lots* of reasons that cis men *and all the menstruating folks who don’t need to stay home* AND all the non-cis men who don’t menstruate, would need an extra sick day to take at the last minute, no questions asked, and not all of those reasons will be applicable to the folks using the period leave. And there will still be folks who almost never need to take it, of all sexes and genders. The overarching idea being that bodies *vary* in what the need and when they need it, and that is true regardless of sex or gender.

          1. Ceiswyn*

            Sure, and an enlightened sick leave policy that acknowledges all those things would be great.

            But that isn’t currently the nature or intention of either the law or OP’s company’s response.

    6. bee*

      Yeah, I agree that this is the least bad solution, honestly. There are just way too many minefields with trying to legislate it any other way (trans coworkers, menopause, what counts as “bad” enough to take off).

      And honestly? I’m a cis-ish AFAB person with a history of debilitating periods, that have now stopped thanks to long-acting birth control. I can’t lie, I would be tempted to take a free sick day every now and again, which is just as unfair as this man, but I would likely/definitely skate by. That doesn’t seem like a great system to me! Anything this heavily reliant on the honor system is pretty likely to fail spectacularly at some point or another.

    7. Abby*

      It’s in response to you saying:

      ‘it seems like it actually would be for the best if men can also take 1 unscheduled day off per month for any reason, right?’

      So, we already have periods. What next? Should men take maternity leave if they’ve never been pregnant or been responsible for a child? Should we also give them breaks during menopause? Should they have leave when they are not pregnant? Think about the implications of this….

      1. bee*

        I mean. Cis men and other non-gestational parents absolutely should get parental leave though? It’s just that in those cases, there’s, you know, an actual baby that proves they need the time. Here, it seems to me that any way to get “proof” of the person deserving the sick day would be a legal and ethical disaster, and so the company would be better off with leaving it as no questions asked bonus sick day for everyone.

        1. Abby*

          In England, the rules finally changed and partners can share parental leave. However, very few men take it up. Even when the law allows for equality people don’t!

        2. Elizabeth the Ginger*

          There are two things that get lumped together often into “maternity leave” – the parental leave/baby bonding time, and the medical leave (disability) intended for physical recovery from childbirth or a C-section. Non-birthing parents should absolutely get the former (in my state, they do – including parents who have newly adopted a child who isn’t a baby), but the medical leave is specifically for people whose physical health was involved in that new child. If the birth is a C-section the parent can get benefits for 8 weeks but otherwise it’s 6 weeks – which is not unfair to people who don’t have C-sections because recovering from a C-section is, in fact, generally more physically difficult.

        3. Christina*

          But men can use parental leave because they are becoming a parent and becoming a parent (presumably) affects them. They aren’t affected by someone else having their period.

  9. Caramel & Cheddar*

    “Your U.S. headquarters isn’t required to impose U.S. rules on your office (just like a London-based employer isn’t required to apply UK vacation minimums to U.S.-based employees).”

    If I’m a US-based employee, I definitely would try to make the argument that, presuming the overseas unit gets way more vacation time, this should definitely apply stateside, too!

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      Sure! But HR wouldn’t have to honor it, and I also don’t think that’s a one-to-one comparison since this isn’t vacation time. It’s more like disability.

      1. Abby*

        They don’t need to honour it but the issue should be raised. OP should seek further advice and that way he can present it using legal-type language/arguments.

      2. Caramel & Cheddar*

        Of course they don’t have to honour it; the point is that American laws aren’t any more applicable to other nations than other nations’ laws are to the US, a point the US HQ’s lawyers seem to have overlooked.

        1. Maple*

          I don’t think HQ is trying to apply US law. They are trying to implement an internal policy that is fair and complies with both countries’ laws, but they missed the mark.

          1. Caramel & Cheddar*

            The LW’s references to the legal department saying it’s discriminatory and then requiring a brand new policy for it stateside is what makes it sound like they’re scared to run afoul of American employment law, so it sounded like they’re (mis)applying American anti-discrimination law to a Non-American law not applicable in America just because people at the overseas office are under the jurisdiction of said Non-American law. The LW didn’t explicitly spell that out, though, so I suppose there’s lots of room for interpretation there.

            1. Maple*

              The thing is, legal departments at international firms often make internal policies that go above and beyond what’s legal required in each country in order to avoid a potential discrimination lawsuit. Even a frivolous lawsuit requires a lot of time and effort to respond to.

          2. pancakes*

            You can’t comply with two conflicting laws at the same time and aren’t meant to. That should not be new news to the legal department!

          3. Claire W*

            If a local law says “This is a thing thaat must apply specifically and only to gourp X” and you then create a policy that actually does a different thing and applies it to every group… then you aren’t following that law surely

    2. Maple*

      You’re assuming that all Americans get terrible leave just because it isn’t legally required. Good employers that compete for good employees do provide plenty of time off. I work for a big international firm based in the US and I actually get more leave than my coworkers in the UK and Germany because HR knows that the Europeans will accept the legally required minimum amount of leave while the Americans want the industry standard which is higher.

    3. Varthema*

      I work for a US-based company with branches all over the world, and yes, it does mean different benefits for different employees. Everyone knows that, and while it may make people go, “wow, I really wish I lived in X country,” it’s clear that it’s because that’s just how local laws work.

      I think HR/leadership does take the variation into account – for example, I think our US-based employees probably have much better maternity leave packages than most US companies – 4 months, I think, rather than 3 or 2 or none. But I live in Ireland, and our maternity leave is 6 months minimum. It doesn’t make sense to change the policy everywhere just because one employee lives in Ireland. And I’m grateful that they’re legally bound to give me my 6 months because childcare here simply isn’t available for babies under 6 months *because* that is our local context. (Technically they also don’t have to pay a dime for my maternity leave though since the maternity stipend comes directly from the gov’t.)

      1. talos*

        Heck, different benefits in different states! We operate in (I think) all 50 states, and it’s always funny how the document explaining your vacation time is 10 pages long because some states have different minimum vacation amounts, minimum sick leave amounts, vacation rollover/accumulation, vacation payout when you leave, tax rules on this possible vacation payout, and so on, and the document has to say what happens in every state.

    4. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

      I absolutely loved working for a Swiss org that gave us Swiss benefits while living in the US. I was in a temporary role and they gave me a sweet pension that got paid out when my contract ended!

  10. Melanie Cavill*

    As someone with a reproductive disorder that primarily affects my menstruation, my criteria for going to work during the tougher days are (a) will I be unproductive; and (b) will I be miserable. If I feel like the answer to one of them is yes, I consider my workload; if I feel like the answer to both is yes, I don’t go in. I have to use up a sick day to do so. I would love a period leave like the LW’s country has! So I don’t feel like modifying it is the correct response, unless that modification was unlimited sick days (which could have issues of its own).

    I don’t think this is a policy issue. I think it is an employee issue. Specifically, the employee who buggered off on a Friday despite having an important meeting. That’s not a great look.

    1. Littorally*

      I don’t think this is a policy issue. I think it is an employee issue. Specifically, the employee who buggered off on a Friday despite having an important meeting. That’s not a great look.

      Agreed.

      1. Empress Matilda*

        Definitely. And the fact that HR is saying they can’t do anything about this guy because they’re not allowed to question period leave is just a steaming pile of horsesh!t. If anybody is abusing PTO, for any reason, of course you’re allowed to talk to them about it. Whatever the cause, the impact is there was a significant problem for the business – of course you’re allowed to address that in some way.

        1. Littorally*

          Exactly.

          My company doesn’t question sick leave use. You call out sick, cool, you’re out sick, no worries. But if I called out sick right before I was supposed to give a massive presentation to the CEO, my boss would probably have a Talk with me about whether I really, truly need that day. It would not be a reason to rethink the entire sick leave policy.

    2. A Feast of Fools*

      This.

      OP, you’ve got an employee who prioritized his MRA stunt over his job. He left people in the lurch so he could troll your policy. I’m guessing you won’t have to look very far to find other ways that he is failing at work.

    3. turquoisecow*

      Yeah agreed. If an employee is truly sick during an important meeting where their input is required, that’s one thing. If he called in and said I’m so sorry but I’m terribly sick, maybe I can send some files or help out remotely but I can’t leave the bathroom for long/am running a temperature of 104/etc then you know he’s a conscientious employee and you have sympathy. But to call in to take sick leave that’s intended for women on the day of an important meeting? That’s a clueless employee at best and an asshole at worst, and I wouldn’t be surprised if OP has had other issues with this guy.

      The policy is a problem, too, but the problem with this guy isn’t just the policy.

      1. Just Your Everyday Crone*

        And he knew in advance that he wasn’t going to be at that meeting and didn’t tell his boss.

    4. FashionablyEvil*

      Totally agree–this is an employee who abused a leave policy AND left his colleagues in the lurch. I can’t imagine he’s a great colleague to work with the rest of the time.

    5. WellRed*

      He abused a policy, left work in the lurch and slapped the face of people who actually need this time off. Actually as a woman who doesn’t need this leave I still feel a bit face slapped.

  11. Lavender*

    Ugh, I am internally screaming.

    Last month, my cramps were so bad that I was pretty much unable to get out of bed, except to periodically (no pun intended) drag myself to the bathroom to vomit. I didn’t go to work that day, but trust me, I would have much rather been at work and feeling okay than at home feeling like I was literally dying.

    1. Hyperactive Bunny*

      I’m a cis woman and for the longest time was blessed with uneventful, pain free periods. Went on an hormonal IUD and it went even lighter and was a non event. NEVER in this time did I EVER doubt women in pain with troublesome periods. NEVER EVER EVER. And now due to other health issues I can’t be on hormonal BC so I turned to my good ol copper IUD and just….holy hell. What on earth. I am finally experiencing what other women go through since my teenage years and I just want to claw anyone who demeans painful periods. I’d put it up there with intense dental pain in that you cannot just ignore this.

      1. Lavender*

        I also had pretty manageable period cramps for most of my life – I’m not sure why they got so bad all of a sudden. For most of my life, I was able to go to work/school/etc. while on my period. This last time, though? No way. There was absolutely zero question about whether I would be able to go into work – it was not happening. And I have a pretty high tolerance for pain and discomfort. I’ve worked full days (from home!) with a 102-degree fever, but with this I was in so much pain that even watching TV or listening to a podcast was too much effort. It was like nothing I’d ever felt before.

        (And yes, I have talked to my doctor and we’re working on it.)

  12. Has Uterus*

    “Constructively requires women to disclose their menstrual/health status by virtue of invoking that leave category” – I think I disagree that this is irrelevant. Particularly given US politics right now, I would not want any official record of when I had my period, would not want my boss or coworkers to be able to track retroactively, and would probably not use this category of leave if I could help it. It seems like a good idea but I think a generous sick / flexible leave and WFH policy for everyone is probably the way to go.

    1. Tze*

      I can just imagine someone taking off a day every month, and then suddenly not for a number of months and some busybody in the office noticing. That is WAY too much information for me to be comfortable with it being public and I can think of half a dozen reasons that do not involve being pregnant.

      1. Nanani*

        This is not hypothetical, it’s 100% why few people who menstruate actually use period days.
        Firing (or “encouraging resignation”) of people who are pregnant is still incredibly common despite being illegal.

    2. One of the Spreadsheet Horde*

      This, so much this. I have zero desire for my employer to know when I’m on my cycle. Or if I even have a cycle. Similarly my employer offers time off in case of a miscarriage. But the idea of announcing to your boss that you experienced a miscarriage (in both announcing about going through one and also indicating potential future plans to get pregnant)? Hard no. Not their business to know.

      Generous and flexible leave/wfh policies address so many of these things.

    3. Former Law Student*

      But this isn’t about US politics and that’s part of the point. The lawyers at HQ are trying to impose US law and attitudes upon the law of another country. It is only people within that country who will take this leave and they seemed comfortable using it because it’s part of their rights under their law. It’s only when the US attorneys tried to impose US anti-discrimination standards that it became a problem.

    4. Claire*

      But this isn’t the US, it’s a different country. Applying US political environments to a question about another country’s leave policy doesn’t make sense.

  13. Littorally*

    I don’t really agree with your take on this one, Alison.

    Specifically, this: Your country’s law is saying, “We’re giving this accommodation to everyone with this specific medical condition (difficult periods).”

    That’s not what the country’s law is, from how the OP summarized it. They’re saying that this accommodation is given to all women, with no proof required of the difficulty (or existence) of their periods. What is the ethical problem with this leave being offered to men that does not exist with the leave being offered to post-menopausal women, or to women who don’t suffer from dysmenorrhea? It sounds like OP’s problem is more that they feel people should only take the leave if they really need it, and they are extending a default presumption that any woman who takes the leave definitely needs it.

    Plus, whether or not local law acknowledges the existence of trans people, trans people still certainly exist there, and can benefit from a more egalitarian policy.

    1. Gan Ainm*

      OP specifically said women are very careful not to abuse it. This was working fine until some dude(s) came along and decided to take advantage.

      1. Littorally*

        That’s a matter of the individual people utilizing the policy, not the ethics of the policy itself.

        Plus, unless the OP has a truly startling level of insight into their coworkers’ health, they are still making the presumption that the women making use of the leave are doing it because they really really desperately need to for specifically menstrual reasons. Which is good faith and not a bad thing, but my point is that the law does not sound like it is actually tailored in any way to be exclusive to people who suffer from the medical condition of dysmenorrhea.

        1. even more anon for this*

          Truly. This policy (and the OP, and quite a few of the commenters here) are making so many sweeping generalizations here. Women can be jerks too. Any leave policy can be abused by anyone. People who don’t menstruate may also need more sick leave than the usual leave allotment allows for (disabled men, anyone? they exist too!). Menstrual-specific leave is making a weird point that I’m sure sounds awesome and feminist-y on the surface but it’s very superficial and actually what EVERYONE would be better served by is sufficient, flexible, accessible sick leave that doesn’t require them to be a particular gender or disclose a specific health status beyond “sick”. Disability and labour justice ftw.

          1. Lenora Rose*

            This is true, but it’s also what the *country* offered as policy. I’m not sure changing the country’s policy is within the OP’s power; they can barely manage navigating their own workplace’s quagmire in dealing with it.

          2. Working Hypothesis*

            I agree that the law as it stands seems problematic, though well meaning. But it’s the law in that country, not a company policy. The company is presumably permitted to offer more, if it wants to, but not less.

            My preferred solution would be to offer generous sick leave to anyone who needs it, including for but not limited to menstrual-related pain and difficulties, and then cut out the specific menstrual days. But that’s not something that the company has the power to do. It should probably still offer the generous sick leave, for the sake of those people who have other reasons for it besides dysmenorrhea, and for the sake of non-women who menstruate, and for the sake of women who need more than one day to deal with menstrual symptoms. But if they do that, they’re still going to be required by law to offer one extra day *in addition* to that to every woman, no questions asked… because that’s the law of the land. My thinking it shouldn’t be doesn’t make it any less the law.

    2. Yorick*

      Alison is right about what the country’s law is. They just don’t require documentation of the medical issue to use the leave.

      1. Littorally*

        So is or is not the leave available to women who do not suffer from painful periods?

        1. Nameless in Customer Service*

          How would you suggesgt policing this? How should women be required to prove their periods are painful enough?

          1. Littorally*

            I’m not. My point is the opposite of that, actually. I’m calling out that by limiting it to women only, the OP and Alison are both making the presumption that it is only being offered to people who really need it — but in fact, it is also being offered to people who don’t.

            1. Calliope*

              Sick leave is also available to people who fake being sick but it’s still sick leave.

            2. Charlotte Lucas*

              But that doesn’t mean they’re taking it. It’s just there if they happen to need it, like any other kind of medical leave.

            3. Lenora Rose*

              I suspect the actual limitation is social pressure. Which is a limited tool, but can be surprisingly effective for 95% of employees or more who fall under it.

        2. Green great dragon*

          It is not available to women who do not suffer from painful periods. That actually seems really clear?

          Sure, they could falsely call in via this route instead of falsely calling in sick another way. But it seems pretty clear that women in LWs company are not.

          Honestly, this seems like a bad faith argument. It is explicitly for period problems, and the documentation requirements are the same as documentation for short sick leave in many places.

          1. Littorally*

            Functionally, it is available to them, because no one is going to question a woman saying she is experiencing a painful period. The only thing stopping the women in OP’s company from using this leave to the maximum is their personal ethics, not any element of the law or company policy.

            Just the same as short sick leave is available to people who are not suffering from anything more serious than “Fuckit-itis.” Which, as we’ve discussed ad nauseam on this site, is fine!

    3. Beebee*

      Yeah but if you are a woman who doesn’t need it… then it’s not for you and you wouldn’t take it. The OP says that the honour system works well and people are following it in a way that works; it wouldn’t make sense to say “but what about X, Y, and Z” when those issues don’t seem to exist in the home office. The idea that every woman is always going to take this day off every single month regardless of whether or not she needs it isn’t what’s happening and it also seems a little… I don’t know. Strange? To assume because this benefit is offered, every woman will take advantage of it regardless of whether or not she needs it. There’s no way to medically prove stuff like “my cramps are bad and I can’t concentrate” so taking women at their word that they need the day off seems like the best course of action here.

      Like don’t get me wrong, I don’t think I would want a policy like this for all the reasons people have said. I don’t want my employer to know when I’m on my period, my periods are super irregular so I wouldn’t be taking days off consistently on a cycle that makes sense which could cause suspicion I don’t want to deal with, if someone is ever pregnant they risk outing that before they are ready, and it forces trans/nonbinary/etc employees to potentially out that status when they may not want to.

      But regardless, the home office has this policy, it seems to work well for them, and they are just asking about the US employees.

      1. Littorally*

        Yeah but if you are a woman who doesn’t need it… then it’s not for you and you wouldn’t take it.

        Ah, I see, so your gender identity determines your ethics and willingness to not take leave, is that it?

        1. Lenora Rose*

          No, but we don’t deny all people sick days just because someone sometimes calls in sick when they aren’t, and we don’t write policy based upon it. And it’s generally agreed upon that demanding sick notes or “proof” is unreasonable for anything less than a week’s leave, and especially if the sickness is only a couple of days.

          1. Littorally*

            Exactly. We take people on faith that if they’re taking a day, then they must need the day, and accept that certainly some of those people are sometimes lying about it or exaggerating their need. That goes hand in hand with any kind of leave system that doesn’t require supporting documentation, and it’s generally a fair and acceptable trade-off.

        2. Nameless in Customer Service*

          Interestingly, women are often seen as being inherently more mendacious than men are. Maybe that’s part of why we’re discussing whether or not women might lie about needing this benefit when the only example the LW gave of an employee who took it without needing it is a man.

          1. Littorally*

            No, we’re discussing the question I posed in my toplevel:

            What is the ethical problem with this leave being offered to men that does not exist with the leave being offered to post-menopausal women, or to women who don’t suffer from dysmenorrhea?

            And everyone rushing in to assure me that no woman who didn’t desperately need this policy could possibly ever be using it.

            1. Nameless in Customer Service*

              everyone rushing in to assure me that no woman who didn’t desperately need this policy could possibly ever be using it.

              I certainly wouldn’t use it without need, because I know I’d be used for the next twenty years as an example of how women lie all the time about everything from period pain to rape to paternity.

        3. Beebee*

          Lmao that’s such an exaggeration of what was clearly not said and I’m not sure why you’re being so hostile? Your original comment made it sound like you assume people taking advantage of this system will be a rampant problem. The LW says it’s not. We need to take LW at their word.

          This leave is for people who deal with extreme period pain. It does not need to be offered to women who have gone through menopause, people who don’t have periods, or people who do but don’t require time off to deal with it. The person writing in is literally asking how to deal with someone abusing the system as they are not someone who suffers from this issue. They are not asking about how to deal with women doing the same because that is not the issue being asked about.

          Please don’t be so hostile and weird in an internet comment section… people are just trying to have discussions here and be friendly.

    4. Lab Boss*

      I see where you’re coming from on this. OP says that none of the women ever took advantage of the system but how would she know? I’m fully willing to believe that the vast majority of the women were honest and only took the time when needed a vast majority of the time, but to assert that the policy was NEVER taken advantage of is something that just can’t be known for sure.

      The guy OP writes in about is a problem and he’s abusing the system, but it’s only clear he’s doing it because he’s doing it in an extremely obvious way. It sounds like even before the change to include men, the policy was “once a woman invokes her menstruation day there may be no other questions.” With a hole that wide I’m sure at least a couple of times a woman took advantage to get a free day off.

      Human nature says that if a system can be exploited, someone is going to exploit it sometimes. That doesn’t mean it’s a bad system, but it might point towards where the system can be improved. Starting with the rose-colored assumption that “Group X is 100% honest and never would exploit the system” just means you’re not going to bother to see if it could be handled better.

      1. Littorally*

        Yup. Or you could decide that you’re okay with the system being exploited sometimes, because the steps necessary to close down that exploitation are way worse than the consequences of people occasionally taking a day they don’t really truly definitely need.

        That’s where I fall here. I don’t think the OP’s company should actually ask for documentation that the women using period days are definitely only ever using them for bad periods. They also shouldn’t be asking if the men who want to take period days are actually stealth trans men who menstruate. It’s none of their business what’s going on in whose underpants.

      2. Period Leave OP*

        I didn’t say “none of the women ever misused it,” but rather that it wasn’t an issue until it was extended to men and they openly treated it as a free vacation day. For years women invoked this leave category at such a de minimis rate that the company barely noticed. For example, none of my female direct reports have taken it more than a few times a year (well within the margin of normal sick leave even if they may not have actually had period symptoms). It’s the guys demanding it to extend already-long weekends, blow through deadlines, and skip important meetings (and the obvious lack of period symptoms in their case) that rankles. Some women who claim period leave may be abusing it, but all men who claim it definitely are.

        1. Regular Lurker*

          I’m just going to stress Alison’s second paragraph, which IMO should really have been the entire answer: consult a local employment lawyer or gender-equality org before you do anything further.

          Your company has settled on this specific interpretation of this law for a reason; they are not going to change that solely on your say-so, and the fact that HR has already been involved doesn’t look good. However, the optics of your company allowing (multiple?) men to treat this as a big joke is also not good, and stuff like the ‘fathers day’ comments are really undermining towards a right that it seems like female employees are hesitant to exercise anyway. Speculation that isn’t grounded in the actual legal practicalities and cultural context of your specific country is not going to help you. Consult someone who knows what they are talking about.

    5. Critical Rolls*

      So, your take on acts of blatant bad faith (men — statistically mostly cishet men — demanding a menstruation-related benefit be extended to them, then using it to extend long weekends) is to also assign bad faith to the women and wash your hands of it? That does a neat job of eviscerating both the spirit and letter of the law.

      1. Mr. Shark*

        But honestly, at this point it is no longer “period leave” if the law is extending to men. And that’s the problem with the law/rule, not necessarily the men taking advantage of it. If they are saying that every employee can have one day off a month, why wouldn’t the men take advantage of it, same as those women who aren’t menstruating being able to take advantage of it?

        The law never should have been extended to men, but there was obviously the possibility that women who don’t menstruate could also take advantage of that. As others have said, is there an age limit or any other qualifying requirement for women to take the day off, outside of their own honor system?

      2. Boof*

        Having a whole law around menstruation days just feels ick to me. And i say that as a women. Why does it matter if I am feeling poorly due to my uterus, sick from my GI system, or sick from my central nervous system? I get that it was some kind of big “awareness” thing but again, aware of what? That it’s possible to have this specific uterine problem? (it’s a common problem but it’s far from universal; I’d actually worry it would lead to people being dismissed as “oh that’s normal” when maybe they’re suffering unnecessarily too)

  14. Nanani*

    It’ absurd to have blackout days for a medical issue, and to have it only one day a month!
    Some people who menstruate really need more days, other people who menstruate will never have cramps bad enough to need time off. It’s a medical accommodation and the people trying to shit on the system like your bro colleagues MUST be shut down.
    So yeah contact that legal department outside the company.

    1. Two Chairs, One to Go*

      I’m late to this convo but I agree. My periods are awful for weeks at a time. (I’m on continuous birth control now so now it’s like 4 weeks a year.) Right now I have unlimited PTO and a manager that doesn’t pry, which is great for when times are rough.

      I get that they don’t want people taking off the day to chill at the beach (like dude bro did) but I can’t control when symptoms hit.

  15. kina lillet*

    This coworker is an ass for sure. I don’t really think that the problem is extending the leave to men as well, but this: that women avail themselves of this leave seriously and via the honor system, and that this coworker is approaching it with no honor. And of course with a distinct level of scorn and disrespect.

    How would you approach a woman who’s misusing the system? I wonder if that’s a better starting point. And also keeping a weather eye out for other sexist behavior now that he’s indicated some of those tendencies.

    1. yala*

      “How would you approach a woman who’s misusing the system?”

      I think that’s my main issue with the argument not to make the leave for any chronic condition. If you’re trusting some of your employees to use the honor system, then you should trust all of them to do so.

      If someone’s Making A Point with the leave, that’s abusing the system blatantly, but if it’s a more neutral extra day a month, then there’s no reason to think that folks who don’t menstruate won’t also take it seriously and use the honor system.

  16. CalT*

    LW, what is exactly your expectation here? According to a quick check, period leave exists in the following countries: Zambia, Taiwan, South Korea, Japan, Indonesia. All those countries are so far culturally from USA and Europe that nobody here will really be able to provide insight or advice of value. Even the way you address your superiors is different, and the immortal AaM script of “I am baffled” will not necessarily work.

    1. NeedRain47*

      Their company is clearly US based and attempting to operate according to US standards.

      1. Princess Trachea-Aurelia Belaroth*

        And they are asking how to address the legal team based in the US, and what approach to use. Sounds like a valid question to ask a US-based work advice columnist.

    2. Anonfornow*

      LW is asking for advice about pushing back against their legal department, which they specifically state is based in the US?

      1. CalT*

        Right now what LW is doing is fighting against an employee who is using a benefit he is entitled to, just because she thinks he shouldn’t be entitled to it. Even though he’s obviously taking advantage, LW definitely isn’t taking a smart approach. There is nothing in the letter about her discussing with the legal department; there is a lot about her targeting a concrete employee and providing HR with tangible proof that she is harassing him. We can scream as much as we want that men don’t get periods and it’s unfair, but it’s the employee that’s in the right, and no passive-aggressive script will change it.

        1. Period Leave OP*

          I believe males should not be entitled to period leave because males cannot have periods. You’re right about that. My belief aside, the man in the example I shared was not simply utilizing a benefit to which he is entitled. He misused it by using period leave for vacation when it’s clearly meant to be used as-needed for health related issues of which he admits he had none. And he used it in the way that was most disadvantageous to the business, which makes me question his judgement generally. I gently questioned his rationale and he set HR after me, so I have no intention of (nor, apparently, right to) discipline him about this–or future–incident(s). But at this point, I AM invested in getting legal to see how stupid this policy is.

        2. Boof*

          He is not entitled to it; someone decided that because women in one country were entitled to it then anyone locally can be entitled to it but it’s not clear that that is either reasonable nor in the spirit of the law, which was at the very least supposed to be about being physically ill.

    3. Nanani*

      Well, no, just because Alison is US based doesn’t mean 100% of the commenters are.
      There’s a reason our host throws to the readers sometimes.

      As someone who has worked in one of your listed countries, it’s a thing that exists in theory but no one really takes because, as others have pointed out, it’s really icky to tell your older, male boss (the older men are ALWAYS the boss) that you;re on your period. Especially when the country and company are known for firing people who get pregnant (yes it’s illegal, yes it happens anyway) and other such garbage.

      So, the WHERES MY COOKIE bros at LWs company are really showing their asses in layered ways.

    4. Regular Lurker*

      I do think that the most relevant part of Alison’s answer is the last paragraph – OP should consult a LOCAL lawyer, legal expert or gender advocacy org immediately. I am absolutely certain that the country in question is Zambia, where ‘mother’s day’ has been an informal custom since the 90s and a legal policy since 2015, and in that space of time I’m certain that this will have come up before. The US-based legal team is not going to change their odd interpretation of this leave policy just on OP’s say-so – they need actual legal advice from a local organisation that they can bring to the table.

  17. Claire*

    We don’t need special categories for different ailments. Just give everyone more generous sick time.

    1. Valancy Snaith*

      The local government in this country differs, and OP will have absolutely 0 input on changing that. Menstrual leave will continue to be enshrined in law there, and adding additional sick time will not change that.

      1. Gan Ainm*

        +1. Im not sure why people are assuming more leave is needed, they have leave, they just want to abuse this specific kind of leave.

        This whole issue is the definition of “equality is giving everyone the same thing, equity is giving them what they need.” Women need period leave and were given it, men don’t need it.

        1. Claire*

          As a woman who menstruates, I don’t want leave specifically for that. I want everyone to have enough sick time to take care of their health. It’s none of my employer’s business why I am not feeling well.

    2. Yorick*

      We kind of do, though. If a company gives 10 days of sick time per year and a woman has problem periods, she’s gonna use all her leave without being able to take it for all the actual sicknesses she experiences in a year. This isn’t an issue that men deal with, so just adding more sick time isn’t gonna fix it. This country’s law is giving women extra days off for an issue that only women deal with.

      1. Lavender*

        Yes, and if a person who doesn’t get periods has a different medical issue that requires a lot of sick time, they could ask about having it accommodated. I don’t know what the laws are in OP’s country, but a good employer would be open to working something out (provided that it was a legitimate medical issue). Just because they give out period leave by default doesn’t necessarily mean that no other medical needs would be accommodated.

        1. Beebee*

          This is a great point! Everyone talking about “but what about ___ other issue” also seems to miss that painful periods are an extremely common thing that a huge percentage of the global population suffers from regularly. Other medical ailments could be accommodated but a country or company saying they recognize this issue is so common they want to offer a base leave for it makes sense.

          1. Lavender*

            And period cramps (for most people who get them, anyway) tend to happen on a regular cycle – and not all medical conditions are that predictable. If someone has, say, chronic pain that tends to flair up every three to six weeks, that’s a lot harder to plan for than a period that happens every month. (And again, I’m generalizing here – some people have irregular cycles or cycles that are longer or shorter than a month, but in general it’s more predictable than a lot of other conditions.) And even other predictable conditions don’t always happen on a monthly basis – someone might be on a weekly medication that makes them feel sick the next day, or have to get an MRI every six months, or whatever. I imagine it’s easier to make a “one-size-fits-most” policy for periods than it would be with a lot of other medical stuff.

            1. Beebee*

              Yeah exactly! Pre-birth control I had to regularly take time off school to deal with my period pain. It was so painful I could not sit up straight or pay attention. If I had been working at the time, I basically would have had to use every sick day just to deal with this. The policy is definitely not perfect but I think it could be a step in the right direction.

              1. Yorick*

                In middle and high school and college I took off 1-2 days a month, so I would’ve really benefitted from this policy.

      2. Oakwood*

        I’ve had a chronic condition since my youth that causes me to take more sick leave than my coworkers.

        Many people (both male and female) have medical conditions that you don’t see.

        1. Yorick*

          But that’s not relevant to this policy about period leave? Yes, men and women both have many needs for sick time, but (most) women have an additional need that men don’t.

        1. Yorick*

          I’m talking about sick time specifically, and please let’s not get into “the US has terrible leave policies” today.

      3. Claire*

        The point is that 10 days of sick time isn’t really enough for most humans. If nearly half the population needs another 12 sick days a year, then… 12 more days a year should be standard. If you are healthy and don’t need it, don’t use it. (But you might in the future! Good health is not a static thing.)

        1. Yorick*

          I agree with you about 10 days, but that’s actually not the point. The point is that women have an additional need for many days that men don’t have, so what’s wrong with women getting additional time for that one need? Men and women will still get sick time for their sicknesses.

      4. justabot*

        But it sounds like the company only gives one day off per month for this, so even if then period is bad for more than one day that month, the women is still going to have to use sick days.

        1. Yorick*

          So? It’s still gonna leave more sick days for women to use for other sicknesses than not having those additional days off would.

    3. A Feast of Fools*

      My company offers 5 days Bereavement Leave. Two of my co-workers have, sadly, had to use this during the past year. Should I march into my HR’s office and demand 5 more days of vacation?

      I could work for this company for decades and never need to use the Bereavement Leave. So there are definitely lots of employees getting a benefit that I’m not getting.

      Ditto paid Parental Leave. I will never need Parental Leave. Should the company offer everyone an extra eight weeks of PTO so that new parents aren’t being privileged over everyone else?

      1. Anon all day*

        Yes, exactly. I remember there was a post a year or so back where some commenters were completely up in arms about only certain people getting benefits, even though those benefits were for specific reasons, e.g., in-person employees got parking benefits, but work-from-home employees didn’t.

      2. Oakwood*

        I don’t think that’s an apples to apples comparison. Bereavement leave is open to anyone that needs it.

        LW’s company is trying to comply with American anti-discrimination law.

        IBM, for example, is incorporated in the US. They can’t discriminate on the basis of sex (like offering benefits to one sex without offering it to the other) in say their Japanese offices even if it’s legal in Japan.

        Bribery laws are another example of this. US companies operating overseas are required to comply with US law even if the country has a more “liberal” standard when it comes to bribery.

        1. Ceiswyn*

          But period leave is also open to anyone who needs it.

          (Except for trans men, I grant you, but I don’t think that giving all men 12 extra vacation days is a proportionate response to a small number of men needing to deal with cramps or bleeding)

          1. TransmascJourno*

            I hope this isn’t your intention, but this reads as if you’re perfectly fine with trans men, transmascs, and nonbinary people who menstruate entirely. That’s…not okay. Just because a small number of people who aren’t cis men might need it doesn’t mean they don’t need it less.

            1. ceiswyn*

              No, I’m not fine with excluding trans men and other non-women who menstruate . They need to have access to these period-related sick days. But giving everybody who doesn’t need the sick leave a free vacation day instead is… not a reasonable way to achieve that.

        2. A Feast of Fools*

          Parental leave is open to anyone who becomes a new parent (through birthing their own, a surrogate, or adoption). I would never be able to use that benefit. It doesn’t apply to me. It’s a specific benefit for a specific subset of employees.

          Just like the period leave.

        3. Eyes Kiwami*

          Most times there will be a locally-incorporated company that the workers actually work for, no? So that company in Zambia or Japan would have to follow the local law.

      3. Claire*

        Maybe they should, I don’t know. I think if U.S. companies got better about giving more humane amounts of time off, we wouldn’t have to keep such close track of why people are using the PTO. In terms of sick leave- bodies get sick. Bodies get injured. Bodies develop chronic ailments. Sick leave should be sufficient to allow people to tend to their bodies. I should not ever, ever have to disclose to my boss that I am menstruating to have time to tend to my body. Trans men should not ever, ever have to disclose to their boss that they are menstruating to tend to their body. Someone with IBS, or arthritis, or chronic migraines, etc. should not have less time to tend to their bodies than menstruating women. The U.S. is one of the most stingy “developed” countries when it comes to time off. It benefits everyone to have a workforce where people are able to get and stay healthy. We need to reconsider what a reasonable standard is for sick time.

  18. NeedRain47*

    It makes zero sense to try to apply US law on top of the law of another country, especially when it’s clearly contrary to the intent of that law. But if they really want to make it “fair”, give everyone an extra 12 sick days a year. Then kick all the men in the stomach once a month. (Kidding about that last part but I’m pissed that they think severe pain is a vacation.)

      1. Texan In Exile*

        And then, when they complain that it hurts, tell them it must be in their head and don’t fund any research into the problem.

  19. Sweet 'N Lower*

    This is making me irrationally (or maybe very rationally) angry in ways that I’m having trouble even putting into words. It’s not like the spirit of the law is to give all women a day off no matter what; it sounds like it’s very clearly intended as a period-specific sick day. When your coworker starts getting a period, he can start taking an extra day off. It’s so, so infuriating how the moment women get specific rights, there are always some men going off about how unfair it is.

    1. NeedRain47*

      Very rational, the base of the issue here is that men do not take it seriously that periods can cause severe pain, gastrointestinal upset, migraines related to hormones, etc. They apparently think anyone having a period is lying and scamming time off work.

    2. Jennifer*

      It definitely feels like whenever there is an issue about women, someone is there to say, “but what about men?”, in whatever way they can. So frustrating.

  20. Free Meerkats*

    The guy is an ass. But I sort of admire his gumption.

    Given your (I assume local) HR supported him, you need to escalate to corporate HR and legal and point out how frelling stupid this is. And maybe give them a link to this post.

  21. Chris*

    “So now, even though local law does not require it, our branch has a policy that any locally-employed member of staff can take an unscheduled day off every single month, no questions asked.”

    “a locally-employed man on my team is clearly misusing this leave category”

    The LW’s ire towards the employee seems misdirected to me. It’s the company that’s adopted this ridiculous policy. The employee is just making use of it.

    1. Gan Ainm*

      I agree that the lawyers who came up with this cockamamie plan to “address” a non-issue are the real root cause, but, this guy is “only making use of” the benefit in the same way someone lying about having a sick child is “only make use of” FMLA. It’s leave for a specific medical conduction that only women have, that he’s now trying to use to go on vacation, he took “period leave”, a condition he does not have, on a Friday to have a long weekend… that’s not what it’s for.

      1. Chris*

        At least as I understand from the post, the legally required leave in this country is for women’s periods, but it’s the company that’s made it a free for all. As the LW put it, “any locally-employed member of staff can take an unscheduled day off every single month, no questions asked.” That’s very different than lying to take advantage of time off that you’re not entitled to.

    2. Need More Sunshine*

      Yes but even a “no questions asked” leave policy has an implication that it should be used in true need if it conflicts with a serious business need, which it did in the case of this employee. He skipped off on a very important meeting that he was closely involved in so he could go on a long weekend vacation. That’s very different than if he used his day for an emergency that really required he miss that meeting – an injury, being sick, a family issue.

      I’m in the US and our sick leave is also “no questions asked” but we give guidelines on what to use it for. Sure, we know some people will probably use it if they’ve run out of vacation days, but if they were so blatant about it, I’d have real concerns about their judgement in general.

    3. Just Your Everyday Crone*

      When he has a role in an important meeting and knows he’s not going to be there that day and doesn’t tell his manager in advance, he’s misusing it.

      1. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

        This. It seems like blowing off the meeting is behavior that deserves censure. OP says he took the day off (I assume without advance notice) “even though it left us in the lurch for a big meeting that day in which he had a key role”. There are plenty of times that managers have to say “regardless of your intent, the result of your actions was bad in xyz ways that impacted other people”.

  22. Bexy Bexerson*

    “not all women menstruate, and not all people who menstruate consider themselves women”

    I don’t like this language…”consider themselves” should simply be”are”.

    1. even more anon for this*

      Same. Hate this language. There is so much gross transphobia in this letter, Alison. LW might think she’s being generous and inclusive in her perspective, but she is not.

      1. Broadway Duchess*

        That phrase jumped out at me too, but I think the benefit of the doubt might be in order here. It’s possible that the OP is just not aware of the meaning of what she said. People are not going to get it right 100% of the time, especially if they don’t take a minute to think.

        1. Lana Kane*

          Agreed. I don’t know that getting the wording wrong equals transphobia. A simple correction could easily result in a “thanks for clarifying that”. My own use of language around these topics has evolved in ways I wouldn’t have imagined before, all because I’ve seen the corrections and taken them onboard.

          1. pancakes*

            We do know; the question is whether it’s intentional. It’s fair to say it may not be but it’s also fair for people to point out why it’s problematic phrasing.

            1. even more anon for this*

              Yes, I’m not talking about what this person intends, I’m pointing out the transphobia reflected in what has been said. It’s not about anyone’s personal failing–it’s the structural pattern behind it. People can take their own correction from that if they need it.

        2. marvin the paranoid android*

          I like to extend grace as much as possible, but that should go in both directions. Trans people have constantly got to deal with language and assumptions about us that are extremely othering (plus, you know, legal and physical attacks on our right to exist), so perhaps you could extend us a bit of grace if we’re sometimes vocally frustrated by hearing it. I realize that when people use language that reveals their biases they are usually not intending to be hurtful, believe me. Unfortunately you can perpetuate a lot of harm without realizing you’re doing it, and if you’re in that category, we’re more likely to be comfortable speaking up about it.

      2. Velawciraptor*

        To be fair to LW, she seems aware that the law as written does not cover everyone it should; she specifically noted that the local law doesn’t extend to transgender people, non-binary people, or intersex people who menstruate.

        1. Nanani*

          Yes, there is a difference between the letter writer and the law of the country they are in – PLEASE keep in mind that at least the versions of this law I’ve experienced are -deeply- -deeply- sexist places. Period leave is not a progressive policy so much as institutionalised cooties.

      3. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        Please could we not nit-pick? OP says she lives in a country that doesn’t have trans rights so she’s not confronted with such issues. She is trying to be inclusive, she’s already well ahead of her own culture. It’s not gross transphobia, it’s just clumsy language.
        I’m not underestimating how such language can hurt trans people. As a minority person myself I well know how even well-meaning people can inadvertently say something that wounds you to the quick. I’m just saying, let’s meet OP where she’s at, and answer her question without calling her a gross transphobic when she’s clearly trying to be inclusive.
        Like the British comic with Sri Lankan parents puts it: “I don’t hold it against old people if they call me a darkie. They have enough to put up with already”.

      1. Valancy Snaith*

        Perhaps the people of Zambia, who use the terminology and I discovered with a quick Google, do not feel that way. I’d wager they feel more strongly about the law itself than the terminology people take surrounding it.

      2. Calliope*

        It’s probably a translation from the local language and the connotations to say nothing of the culture are probably different. This doesn’t seem like the place to nitpick that. (Or the OP’s language for the same reason.)

  23. Surprised*

    Interesting perspectives. I’m surprised at how many people are concerned that workers will get an extra, “undeserved” day off. Seems contrary to the perspectives normally expressed by Alison and commenters. I’m generally for giving every employee every benefit when possible. And, unlike the handicapped parking analogy, days off are not a zero-sum game. Using a handicapped parking space deprives someone else of being able to use it. Taking a day off does not deprive someone else from being able to do the same. And maybe don’t schedule big meetings on a Friday when employees have the prior Thursday and following Monday off. I’m sure everyone in the room would have liked to use a vacation day to make a very long weekend.

    1. kina lillet*

      You’re not wrong, but I think the coworker is sending a pretty clear, pretty sexist message, and it’s being received loud and clear by everyone here. Like the original response notes—feelings about period leave itself might differ, for instance “why not just give the day to everyone”, but this guy is definitely being a jerk about it in a sexist way.

      1. Surprised*

        You’ve misinterpreted what I was saying. I should have been more clear. The “taking an undeserved day off” was about men taking advantage of the policy. I fully support women taking the time off, although I’d prefer to see unlimited sick PTO for everyone and let them decide individually what rises to the threshold to take it.

        1. Working Hypothesis*

          The problem isn’t that some people are getting an extra day off, it’s that they’re deliberately misusing a tool that was fought for and won by women for a specific purpose and which the women themselves are very careful not to misuse in order to get it. That feels to me like the guy in question (and everyone else who allowed that kind of misuse) is piggybacking off of women’s struggles to get their own way, and that’s offensive. It wouldn’t be offensive to me if he had gotten a free day off by a different method.

    2. BA*

      Except when it comes to workload, sometimes taking a day off does deprive someone from doing something. It adds to their workload, which might deprive them of getting out of the office at the normal time. Or it might make everyone else in the presentation have to scramble to cover what was supposed to be done by someone else.

      And “maybe don’t schedule big meetings on a Friday…” isn’t the answer either. While the timing sucks, it isn’t as simple as just making a blanket statement that you’re not scheduling meetings on a Friday. Perhaps the client needed it scheduled that day. Perhaps there were other circumstances. You don’t know.

      1. Surprised*

        I guess my biggest concern is that this type of policy has divided employees. Management loves nothing more than seeing employees battling employees because it means they are not united in fighting for everything they can negotiate from management.

      2. Yorick*

        If Frank wanted to take that day off, he should have worked with the client or whoever to move the presentation to another day and take the day off the way he normally would have. Not be an ass.

      3. Antilles*

        Not to speak for Surprised here, but I’m guessing it’s not just about it being Friday but specifically the fact you’ve got a holiday on Thursday AND Monday, so you’re effectively scheduling a meeting in the middle of a long weekend.
        Maybe there are specific reasons you had to schedule on that specific day, but it’s also probably wise to avoid that day if at all possible – in the same way that many US companies have made the Day After Thanksgiving into a holiday (possibly under the guise of “Veteran’s Day observed” or something) simply because so many staff would take the day off anyways.

        1. Empress Matilda*

          Yeah, I’m curious about the timing of the meeting, because without more information it does seem like poor planning on somebody’s part.

          Regardless, it’s clear that there WAS a meeting, and it’s clear that OP’s colleague WAS supposed to be there. And it sounds like it’s also clear that he went on vacation that day. So he’s still an ass, regardless of which particular policy he’s abusing this time.

    3. Oakwood*

      “And maybe don’t schedule big meetings on a Friday when employees have the prior Thursday and following Monday off.”

      It’s like the teacher that schedules a test the day after a big holiday to ensure their students study over the holidays.

    4. Ceiswyn*

      It is true that men having 12 extra vacation days, which they can take any time they like and on which they can do what they like, does not deprive women of their 12 days of sick time that are controlled by their biology and spent at home dealing with their symptoms.

      But does that really look fair and equal to you?

    5. Ceiswyn*

      Days off are not a zero sum game, but that doesn’t make it reasonable for men to have 12 vacation days that women don’t.

      Because for people who menstruate and have issues associated with that menstruation, those aren’t vacation days.

      1. Surprised*

        The company opened the benefit to everyone. When you argue male colleagues should have fewer days off rather than advocating for women to have more days off, you are a tool of management. Focus on unlimited sick PTO for everyone.

        1. Ceiswyn*

          The law in the country where OP works mandated that women have the option for more days off, exactly as we’ve just agreed should happen. It’s the OP’s employer who treated this as a zero-sum game that was somehow unfair to men.

    6. Period Leave OP*

      Interestingly, it was the client who requested that day (which the client has all right to do on any regular working day even if it happens to fall between two holidays). He handles my scheduling so he is sometimes aware of meeting confirmations before I am. He informed me (two days in advance, which is not how period leave is supposed to work) that he’d need period leave that Friday and then moments later forwarded me the client meeting confirmation for the same Friday, which I saw from the timestamp had been in his possession well before he called out. The only person who planned poorly was this employee who planned a vacation over a day he was scheduled to work. If we wanted to take a long weekend, he should have requested PTO like everybody else.

      1. Really?*

        He left you in the lurch, and he’s proved that he is unreliable. I think you have to be very careful about assigning him to high profile, mission critical assignments where is absence can hurt the team. He’s clearly not a team player and you’re going to have to deal with that going forward. At least you know now that may be an issue in the future. Perhaps one of your other reports will step up and get a chance to shine.

  24. Lizzianna*

    Ugh, this reminds me of the coworkers who keep referring to my upcoming maternity leave as a “sabbatical” or “vacation.”

    Do we have to give everyone in the office an afternoon off because one person went home with a migraine?

    I feel like every manager needs to have a sign that says “Fair isn’t always equal.”

    (That said, if I were a non-menstruating person who needed 12 extra days of sick leave a year to deal with a health condition, and was told I needed to dip into unpaid leave, while the menstruating people in my office didn’t have their days count against their overall leave bank, I may see a point there. But perhaps ensuring that *everyone* has adequate sick leave, and making it clear that menstruation is a valid reason to use sick leave, would be a more equitable solution than giving men a day off each month. Even some menstruating people don’t always menstruate every 28 days, but they may have other health complications that need tending to).

    I also think if your company is going to operate overseas, they need some local employment counsel to help interpret local laws, because it seems like your US-based counsel is looking at it through a very US lens, and it raises red flags that other employment laws and policies are being based on US law and not local law, which could get you all in trouble.

    1. Abby*

      Whenever people make a comment like that to me (I am not a parent) I say:

      ‘Did you forget dad exists’? Why not comment on the fact that they are 50% responsible? Women don’t get pregnant from shagging a tree! When a woman goes off on maternity leave the man is still 50% responsible.’

      They start stuttering, stumbling and have nothing left to say…..

      1. tg33*

        Abby, are you saying men and women should have equal parental leave? That’s fine, but women deal with a lot of physical changes that can go badly wrong and it takes some time to recover from childbirth, which is a medical issue, not a parental issue. Thus maternity leave.

        1. Abby*

          No. I am talking about how it is only ever attributed to women. Maternity leave is a point of discrimination against women but there are 2 parents. If another person (whatever gender) is the other parent then they should be treated the same as the parent on maternity leave.

          In England (copied from the government source) ‘You can share up to 50 weeks of leave and up to 37 weeks of pay between you.’

          There is plenty of time for the woman to recover from the first half and the other parent to take the other half or whatever combination that works (the legislation doesn’t force anything).

          1. tg33*

            I am in Ireland, not the UK, so I’m vaguely aware of the UK laws, but I’m not sure of the details. This seems to be a cultural issue as much as anything else, I think it’s Sweeden (or the Netherlands?) where the mother takes the first half of the leave and the father the second half. I don’t know what Ireland offers, my youngest is 14 and the laws have changed a lot over time, and my DH was a SAHD so it didn’t arise anyway.

        2. Lizzianna*

          My employer has the same family leave policy (12 weeks paid) for new parents, and doesn’t distinguish between giving birth and adoption.

          If birthing parents need additional leave on top of that due to medical complications from birth or caregiving of an infant with medical complications like a NICU stay that extends beyond 12 weeks, we treat it as sick leave.

          1. Lizzianna*

            Oops, hit send too soon. I actually like that policy, because I need my partner at home in the first few weeks after giving birth. I wasn’t able to care for myself, recover, and care for our newborn. My husband can take his leave any time in the baby’s first year.

    2. Irish Teacher.*

      Just to give a slightly different perspective, in my job, we have two levels of sick leave, certified and uncertified. We get 7 days uncertified across two years, so 3-4 days a year, but up to 6 months on full pay and I think another 6 on half pay (Not sure as I’ve never needed that much) across maybe 4 years, for certified. A long term medical condition might be able to get certified leave (note from doctor) whereas a day off for period issues probably wouldn’t.

      I definitely get people feeling annoyed if they have a condition that doesn’t merit it, but if the country’s laws are such that medical conditions are already covered in a way periods aren’t, I could see it making sense. After all, it would be very tricky to deal with painful periods in my Jo unless you were going to the doctor every time.

      1. Yorick*

        Exactly. And many women have periods that are bad enough to take one day off (many need more than one!) without having a medical condition. Listen, guys, I know you don’t know but periods are really rough! Sure, some women have shorter, easier ones – but even those women usually find their periods uncomfortable and inconvenient at the least.

      2. Irish Teacher*

        Last line should be “in my job,” not “in my Jo.” I was typing on the train and quickly as we approached my stop, so I’d no time to proofread.

  25. SomebodyElse*

    I’ll start by saying I disagree with these laws to begin with… Here’s why;

    1. Yes, some women will take advantage of this, it’s naïve to think they won’t. Not all women will, but it is going to happen
    2. Some women will not use it even if they legitimately need it – See the poster who has already stated this
    3. That’s a lot of time! That is 12 days/year that some employees get* and others don’t.
    4. I’m not comfortable with another thing that drives a wedge between men and women in the workplace. And no that doesn’t mean I think that gender specific rules shouldn’t exist (I agree with maternity leave being longer than paternity leave for example, have no problem with pumping areas in the workplace, as examples) but this does seem a step too far IMHO.

    So, now to the OP. What can you do about how your company is choosing to handle this… Nothing. I mean it could have just as easily been a woman with period pain on a busy day between two bank holidays. It could have been this man calling in sick with the flu. Or it could have been a woman who decided that she wanted to take that extra day off. Your company has decided that every person gets 12 days off per year with no questions asked and without hitting the PTO/Sick/Vacation time. You treat this as you would any other unplanned sickness. One thing I would do is to keep an eye on if this has a significant impact on the workload to your teams. You may have a case for additional headcount if the impact is high and can be quantified.

    *Yes, insert all the valid arguments that have been or will be mentioned

    1. Ellen Ripley*

      Well said! I too don’t love this rule; I think it does drive a wedge between genders at work on an unnecessary way. More sick days for everyone is a better solution to me!

  26. Nanani*

    I should also add, there’s nothing -inherently- wrong with men taking period leave. Trans men, they exist.

    The letter is about people who don’t menstruate being WHATABOUTME I want a cookie too, and that needs to be shut down, but ideally it should be done without excluding someone who may need period leave but not be a woman – trans men and non-binary people and genderfluid people exist.

    1. Lavender*

      Yes. There are absolutely some issues with this law, but the exclusion of cis men is not one of them.

      1. Fushi*

        Yeah, this is what makes it so tricky. The man in this letter sounds absolutely dreadful, and it frustrates me that there probably won’t be any consequences for his intentionally leaving his coworkers in the lurch to prove a sexist point, but it’s not cool to roll the policy back to its original state and screw over anyone who isn’t a woman but needs the leave. I think making it into explicitly a type of sick leave that can be taken by anyone, and making clear that it’s not to be used for vacation, is probably the best that can be done here from an equity standpoint.

  27. Mitford*

    Before menopause, I think I would have sold my soul to the devil to have this option available to me. I had killer cramps due to fibroids. It’s a shame it’s being misused by men like the one in the original post.

  28. BA*

    If legal/HR won’t address the idiocy of this, there has to be some recourse for managers when someone just bails on their job like the guy in the letter did. He brazenly took a day that is intended to be assistance for a specific medical reason and extended a preplanned vacation, while leaving his team in a really bad spot. That’s not just taking advantage of a situation that you shouldn’t be taking advantage of. That’s putting your team in a really awful spot and not doing your job. There has to be some way to come up with some consequences.

    If there’s no way around it (and I sure hope that the legal team can see that American law can’t supersede local law here) then they need to provide managers some tools to help them. Otherwise, you may end up with all the men gone form the office the day before a holiday weekend without proper coverage.

    1. Pescadero*

      “I sure hope that the legal team can see that American law can’t supersede local law here”

      1) American law absolutely CAN supersede local law (see: US regulations against bribery in countries where bribery is legal)

      2) Company policy absolutely can choose to provide the benefit to MORE people than are qualified under the law.

    2. Mr. Shark*

      But is it really for a specific medical reason anymore if it now is extended to men? That’s my question.

      I understand he is taking advantage of the rule, but the extra day off is no longer period leave the way it is defined, it sounds like. So what is he doing differently except that he knowingly paired this extra day leave with other leave he already had? Yes, it’s not considerate to do it when there’s a big project, but if a woman did it that same day, with no questions asked, it would not be considered anything besides just taking the day off, even if that woman wrapped it around a vacation time.

      It shouldn’t have been extended to everyone, but once it was, what exactly is the guy doing wrong?

  29. Lab Boss*

    I’m trying to understand how this leave is different from normal sick leave- surely that’s often also taken without warning, when someone just wakes up sick? If I (cis man) was using a normal sick day would I have to explain to my boss that I was vomiting, or just that I was too sick to work? Because it seems like this policy is well-intended but ends up giving women 12 extra sick days per year, that they may not need (as Littorally points out above), but they have to disclose extra details to be able to use.

    Would the company be able to stay compliant with the law by structuring their sick time policy to match it? Letting ANY employee say they’re not feeling well and take an un-scheduled day off without notice? That might involve giving employees more/unlimited sick time but just seems like it would be better all around. You still might have someone “calling in sick” just to get the day off, but that’s something that can happen at any company.

    1. Lab Boss*

      Editing to add: The policy as it currently stands not only gives the extra time to women who don’t need it, it denies it to people who DO need it that other local laws don’t consider to be “real women.”

    2. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      I’m trying to understand how this leave is different from normal sick leave- surely that’s often also taken without warning, when someone just wakes up sick? …

      I agree. I feel like 95+% of the problems with this situation go away if the policy is reworded to “your 1st sick day each month doesn’t count against your accrual.”

    3. MsMonchichhi*

      There may not be any sick time for the company to “restructure” as you suggest. I have no idea what country this LW is based in, but in some countries (e.g. where I am) there is no such thing as company-offered sick days as a benefit for employees. You get X annual vacation days as required by law and anytime you get sick (whether it’s for the common cold or something more serious), you get a note from your GP which allows you to take sick leave. So there is no such thing as an annual number of pre-approved sick days. You get sick leave when you’re actually sick and you get as much of it as your doctor determines to be necessary – quite fair, actually. If the LW’s current country has a similar system, there may very well be a difference between regular sick leave (requiring a doctor’s note) and period leave (requested without a note based on an honor system and not equivalent to annual vacation). 

      1. Lab Boss*

        Even under a system like that the company could have a system like Sola Lingua’s suggestion, where everybody gets a free “sick” day that doesn’t count against their vacation days and can be taken on no notice. Those who need the day for menstruation, have it. It bypasses any definition issues about who is eligible. It allows flexibility for other short-term sudden-onset issues that probably shouldn’t need a Doctor’s note. It makes it clear that the purpose is for illness/health issues, so abusers can be stopped.

        Obviously we don’t know all the details but it does seem like the Company could target some idea middle ground between doing the bare legal minimum (which excludes trans and other individuals, even without worrying about being “unfair” to cis men) and their current system of a totall unrestricted no-warning day that must never be questioned.

      2. TPS reporter*

        I think part of the point of this policy is to not make people who are going through painful periods every month have to get a doctor’s note- they can do a no questions asked sick day.

        IMO, all sick days should be no questions asked and there really should be a general bank of PTO that is no questions asked. If the PTO is prescheduled your manager should be able to approve/deny based on any urgent work needs. If the PTO is ad hoc because you are too sick to work (for whatever reason) trust the employee that they are telling you the truth. If there is a pattern with a lot of ad hoc days that are affecting the work you can have that conversation.

        Basically, I think the company should give one extra PTO day to all per month and institute no questions asked for all of it, subject to managerial discretion for urgent situations/chronic issues.

  30. Esmeralda*

    In addition to following up with your US HR, I would address the *work* issue with Mr. Misogynist Ass: he blew off an important meeting where his presence was necessary, and he did it to be on vacation. Whatever the category of leave he took, he did not hide where he was. I’d start there, and not wait to hear back from US HR.

    Yes, his taking the day of period leave was beyond the pale. But right now, his unprofessionalism is the only stick you have.

    1. Yorick*

      Yes, this guy’s behavior is problematic beyond his whiny sexism. Fire him for the work issue.

    2. Littorally*

      Yep. This guy is a problem regardless of what kind of leave he took; the fact that he blew off an important meeting is the problem here.

    3. SomebodyElse*

      This would only work if the company would fire someone else for taking a sick day. Like it or not the guy did not break any policies. If a woman taking the same leave wouldn’t face discipline then he shouldn’t either. I think the OP would have a very rough time trying to defend “Yes he took leave according to policy, but I didn’t like it so I fired him” especially in a country that does not have “At will” employment laws.

    4. Media Monkey*

      agree – treat the guy who planned to take a sick day as though he pulled a sickie (which he did – it was a preplanned holiday to take advantage of a long weekend and he isn’t clamined to have had a period). And discipline accordingly. also the HR team really need to look at the chaos they have created by trying to be equal rather than equitable.

  31. HufferWare*

    While I understand the original intent was for menstruation care, wouldn’t ALL employees benefit from having a “personal” day once a month? For what it’s worth, I’m a cisgender woman who menstruates. I don’t think the handicap parking space/Black history month comparison is apt. Is this day meant for personal care, or is it meant as a reparation for unequal gender treatment? Is this “benefit” meant to highlight ingrained systemic injustice, or is it to help employees deal with natural bodily occurrences with dignity? We do not undo injustice by perpetuating inequality.

    1. Tea*

      Uhh… I’ll presume you don’t suffer from extreme period symptoms then? My read is that the day is meant as an extra sick day for those whose whose periods make them very sick, so it’s pre-planning for a normal and reoccurring bout of illness. So “personal care” as lying flat all day while drugged up to the gills on painkillers or alternating crying and throwing up for six hours or avoiding fainting from pain in the middle of your work parking lot driveway (ask me how I know.) I wouldn’t consider offering one half of your employees a deserved sick day and the other half a vacation day equality at all.

    2. BritChikkaa*

      It’s sick leave reserved exclusively for people who suffer a specific medical condition.

      For reasons of plain simple biology, that medical condition cannot physically affect anyone AMAB.

      If someone was on medical leave for prostate cancer, would people be complaining that it discriminates against people without prostates, ie all AFAB people?

      1. Yorick*

        You know, it’s kinda comparable to COVID sick leave. At my job, we could use 2 weeks COVID leave if we tested positive or were exposed and it wouldn’t use our regular sick days. I didn’t get COVID, so I didn’t get to take off work for 2 weeks without using regular leave days. And I’m fine with that.

        This policy gives days off to deal with a specific condition. It just happens that men don’t have that condition and so they’re not getting the benefit but they’re used to getting everything and now they’re mad. Tell them to get over it.

      2. Minimal Pear*

        I’ve actually known a couple of trans women who have found that, over time, their hormones have ended up cycling in a way that’s VERY similar to a period, cramping and such included!

    3. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      The point of the law is that some people who menstruate (not all, but enough) have a really hard time of it. The leave is for those people, not for everyone assigned female at birth. And it sounds like that is historically how it’s been used; people only took it when they needed it.

      If people had to take regular sick days for period issues, there would probably be very few other sick days for any other health issues that come up.

      1. HufferWare*

        In these instances, the individual employee would benefit from medical leave particular to their needs akin to FMLA instead of a blanket 1 day policy that only applies to a specific gender identity of employee. Menstruation and cancer are not equivalent. Menstruation isn’t equivalent from person to person (as the commenter who decided to make this personal and question my own body functions so helpfully pointed out) or even month to month. It should not be on employees to make “honorable” decisions about leave policies. It’s on the employer to make fair leave policies that benefit all their employees regardless of their personal situation.

    4. Regular Lurker*

      I think this is the point where specificity would be really useful. There is only one country that offers menstrual leave, refers to it as “mother’s day” and recently had a bunch of public holidays falling on those days of the week, and that is Zambia.

      You can look up plenty of coverage of this policy in Zambia, and most of what I found raised the same points:

      – gender equality in Zambia is not great – 137th out of 162 countries in the Gender Inequality Index.
      – as mentioned by the OP, LGBT rights are also not great; for those pointing out that the policy is not inclusive, there is very, very little acknowledgement of trans/intersex people in mainstream discourse and same-sex sexual activity is currently illegal.
      – the “mother’s day” euphemism stems from reluctance to even acknowledge periods in the public sphere at all
      – the policy is criticised in practically every article I found for being vaguely worded and providing little specific guidance for how companies should implement it

      I don’t think that we can helpfully discuss this topic without acknowledging a) the social context of deep gender inequality that led to the introduction of such a policy, and b) the specific optics of a US-based company allowing their employee to performatively take the mickey out of a local law designed to help Zambian women in the workplace.

      (FWIW, the coverage also suggests that the policy is not uncontroversial within Zambia and there has been much discussion of people taking the day frivolously, whether it’s unequal, etc etc. I can’t imagine that there wouldn’t be companies locally, or people within the local expat community, who have experienced similar ‘but what about the men’ shenanigans or bungled attempts to implement the policy and could give OP more informed advice.)

      1. Valancy Snaith*

        This, exactly. It is going to be a terrible, terrible look if a US-based company jumps in and tries to circumvent a law intending to help Zambian women in the workforce. All the noodling in the world about “yeah but in America” won’t change that.

        1. TransmascJourno*

          But there’s also a chance the OP’s U.S. headquarters implemented their new policy to help LGBTQ (read: trans and nonbinary) employees to circumnavigate anti-LGBTQ sentiments in the office in which the OP is based. We don’t know per the letter or the OP’s follow-ups if their company leans toward progressivism or conservatism, so that possibility remains. If it’s the former, the company’s new policy is definitely not meant to intentionally take away anything from employees who are cis women. Regardless, they’re also aiding current (or future) employees who work in that office who aren’t cis women but have periods either way.

      2. Eyes Kiwami*

        Exactly and thank you for bringing this up. There is likely a lot of the same discussion going on in Zambia (as I know there is in other countries with similar leave) but taking it out of its context and trying to misapply it in America–of course there will be problems!!

  32. Fyodor*

    Everyone is dumping on the male coworker but if the rule says facially that everyone gets a day off for whatever reason they want he is fully entitled to rely upon the rule as written and shouldn’t be obligated to give up a work benefit just because it originated for different reasons. I guess it depends on the text of the rule, but if the rule just says that you get a day off he should be able to avail himself of it no matter how it originated.

    1. Saturday Slowpoke*

      The policy might protect him from getting formally reprimanded by his company, his coworkers are well within their rights to be mad that he took advantage of the rule knowing it would leave them scrambling on an important day. He can hide behind the policy all he wants but he can still be tried in the court of public opinion by his coworkers. I would definitely think he was not a team player and not go out of my way to help him with anything if I could avoid it.

    2. Anon all day*

      Are you referring to the rule created by the company or the local law? Because, according to OP, the law is for women to deal with cramps/period symptoms. And the whole point of OP writing in is that the company-created rule is ridiculous because it has no connection to the actual law.

      1. aaa*

        The company created a terrible policy in response to the rule. Based on how the OP described both, the company-created rule does meet the law requirement of allowing one day off for women for periods. The company then decided to broaden that to any one may take one no-questions asked day that won’t count against their total. Not knowing the exact wording of the company rule or the law, I’d say they are both poorly worded.

        The OP said the employee is misusing it. It really doesn’t matter what the intentions of the rule were, if it’s worded the way the OP said, I don’t see how he’s misusing it. Doesn’t sound like the policy says that it has to be a sick day. It’s fine to question the person’s character for choosing to take it on a day they were supposed to have a big meeting, but I’m not going to tear into them for taking advantage of a benefit that is offered. And it sounds like the OP is taking their anger about the rule out on the employee.

    3. BA*

      Sure, but his lack of professionalism is the issue with when he used it. He knew of the presentation. He didn’t just opt out of the day because he wasn’t feeling well. I don’t have a cycle, but I assume that based on what the LW said, those who do have a cycle on that team are using it responsibly…and using it on days when they’re physically unwell enough to not be in the office. Instead, the guy blew off a major work obligation.

    4. Green great dragon*

      That is not what the law says. It is “to care for menstural symptoms”.

    5. TPS reporter*

      I can see your point. As annoying as this guy sounds, the policy itself if very vague is not doing this manager any favors. It would behoove the company to add a statement that all days off are subject to managerial discretion and to keep in mind deadlines and coverage when taking days for non urgent issues. The policy shouldn’t leave the manager’s hands fully tied to not ask any questions and not be able to discipline someone for taking a day that was not due to an urgent medical or family issue- whether that be a painful period or your child has a high fever or a pipe in your basement burst. Managers should be able to trust that employees are taking days thoughtfully but should also be able to ask questions if it seems like someone is abusing a policy.

    6. Lizzianna*

      One thing I learned from the Big Lebowski is that you can be right, but still be an a-hole. The intent of the rule isn’t just a free day off to extend a vacation with no notice to your coworkers and supervisor.

      Just because his manager can’t formally reprimand him doesn’t mean it was the right thing to do.

      1. Lizzianna*

        I mean, guys like this are the reason that some employers require doctors notes for sick leave. They ruin it for everyone.

  33. A Feast of Fools*

    Are any of the men who are abusing the policy over the age of 45? Are they not taking the day during nine consecutive months?

  34. BeenThatDoneThere*

    Meh. I certainly understand the law, and it is well-intentioned. But the flip side of the issue is that this law is indeed granting to a person a tangible, demonstrable benefit (12 additional days off per year) entirely based on gender. A 60 year old woman can ask for it and with “no questions asked” get that day, even though she is presumably not experiencing related issues. If a man win the US was granted 12 additional days off per year, we would rightly regard that as unjust.

    As long as a female employee continues to get that day (that does not count against her PTO), then why should she (or anyone) care that the company wants to ensure *equal* benefits for all of its employees, and takes an action to equalize benefits which harms women in no way at all?

    1. BritChikkaa*

      I don’t believe for a second that a 60yr old woman would get it “no questions asked.”

      Commenters obviously do not know or understand anything about Japanese culture or how hugely different it is from American culture. There’s simply no way a 60yr old Japanese woman would actively and blatantly overtly lie to her co-workers because it would be an unthinkable taboo. If she did, she would certainly be… well “questioned” isn’t even the word.

      Besides the LW states that the honour system works. Isn’t it a rule of AAM to take LW at their word?

      The pushback is sheer misogyny.

      1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

        And a dismissal of women’s pain. Especially for women of colour. Some of the people pushing back probably believe that periods are no big deal. And for some, that’s true. But for others, it’s awful. Ask me how I know.

      2. BeenThatDoneThere*

        I agree. Let’s take the OP at her word. According to the OP, yes, the 60 year old woman would:

        “So now, even though local law does not require it, our branch has a policy that any locally-employed member of staff can take an unscheduled day off every single month, no questions asked.”

        So if that is now the policy of the company, why on earth *wouldn’t* you avail yourself of such a benefit? If a man does so, it harms nobody, as any woman still gets to avail herself of that with no questions asked.

        Regardless of the *intent* of the law, the *effect* of the law is to provide female employees a valuable, tangible benefit with several thousand dollars per year that is not made available to other employees *entirely because of their gender*. The corporate HR department is right. However well-intentioned? It’s discriminatory, and I see nothing whatsoever wrong with any employee taking such a day, consistent with corporate policy, the same way the would utilize any *other* benefit offered by company policy.

        1. Sova*

          I believe the problem with your analysis that the HR legal got it right (and possibly their initial analysis) is that you and they are interpreting the law to provide a benefit based entirely on gender and that is just not factually correct. There are women that won’t menstruate at the company for a variety of reasons. There may be intersex or nonbinary or transgender men that do that could use the benefit. What makes the manager’s job thorny is that if there is a brave male-presenting employee wants to use the benefit legitimately, it’s a terrible can of worms to open to try to make them prove that they menstruate. However, whatever policies the company has to police sick leave or to investigate pattern abuse for any type of leave should still apply in a situation where the policy is menstruating people get 1 day a month off as needed and someone was believed to be using it inappropriately, whether that’s a woman who seems to have a movie and lunch date with her friends every 27 days that coincides with her requested days off for menstruation leave or what the guy in the OP did in using it to bridge between a vacation and a holiday.

          There are going to be lots of other benefits that many corporations offer that not everyone gets to utilized to the exact same amount every year. Fairness is not always about things being exactly the same. As far as I know, it’s not religious discrimination to allow an employee to have religious holidays off without requiring them to use their vacation leave , for example. What the OP’s legal department did is the equivalent of saying everyone should get the same number of leave hours as all the major religions have observed holidays that they can take whenever they want just to make everyone feel like things were the same for everybody. That kind of policy might seem ‘fair’ because everyone is being treated the same, but that doesn’t mean it would be a good policy or the right thing to do.

          1. BeenThatDoneThere*

            True, but this policy is *clearly* and directly linked to gender. And it provides a benefit that is not insignificant. Twelve additional PTO days is worth several thousand dollars. And providing it to *all* people, as the company has done harms nobody at all. Any person needing it as a “period day” can take it; by generalizing it to an extra day for all worked, they are not harmed in any way. Nothing has been “taken away” from them.

            The company looked at the law, and decided the best way to meet the requirements of the law was to generalize this required benefit in a way that meets the letter of the law (presumably), takes nothing from any workforce member and doesn’t give any pretense to any workforce member based on gender.

            I agree it’s an interesting problem, and I can see both sides, but the company’s solution seems quite reasonable and even-handed to me. The law of the land is forward thinking and supportive of women by ensuring they receive a valuable benefit. But that benefit can’t accrue to them simply by virtue of their gender. Unless we want to get into “Well, how bad are YOUR cramps?” to determine who really “needs” the benefit this month, then there has to be an equitable way to provide it “no questions asked”. And if there are no questions asked, then there definitely *will* be people taking it without a specific “need”. And if it becomes that, then you can’t simply give them that based on their gender.

    2. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      But it’s not based entirely on gender. It’s based on need. The people who need it will primarily (but not entirely!) be cis women. But not all cis women need/will take it. OP has been clear that the expectation there is that people will only take it when they actually need to do so. So no, a woman who is in menopause shouldn’t take it.

  35. Even Steven*

    Can you find it in your budget to deliver a tasteful gift of tampons and pads to each person who uses this leave? That should settle Mr. Fathers’ Day’s hash.

    1. Popinki(she/her)*

      There’s a letter from a person whose manager gave all of her female employees Moon Cups as a more eco-friendly option and would hassle them if she saw them with pads or tampons. I think that manager and Mr. Father’s Day need to hook up.

  36. PeopleAreWeird*

    Equal and fair are not the same thing.
    It seems entirely fair to give a day for this, it’s not equal. Equal can be measured, fair is an opinion

    I am sure people would not be okay with men being paid 5% more for working 5% more days, if you want equal pay yet working 1 less day a month. (assuming roughly 20 days of work a month), you have to admit it’s not equal.

    I think the guy is a doink for taking a day, but if the company allowed you a day off you’d take it too.
    Given the facts, I think management is way overthinking this and shouldn’t make rules that are impossible to enforce without sowing discord.

    They didn’t make the law, they have to follow it, if some man complains tell them to complain to those who made the law.

    1. Nameless in Customer Service*

      I am sure people would not be okay with men being paid 5% more for working 5% more days, if you want equal pay yet working 1 less day a month.

      Wouldn’t a company that paid women 5% less because of this policy 1) have to make sure all women working for them took all twelve of these days a year and 2) need to dock people pay for the bereavement days they take, since those are days not taken by other coworkers?

  37. pancakes*

    “Point 2 feels very ‘why is there no white history month?’ to me, but okay.”

    No, no, no, absolutely not. How did this come to seem okay to you?

    1. kina lillet*

      Using “but okay” to end a sentence that way is a fairly common colloquialism, at least in my area, that more or less means: “not really okay but let’s put that aside for now and move on to the next not okay thing.”

      1. pancakes*

        Yes, I am not unaware that people mean they want to set something aside when they say that! It’s the setting aside I’m taking issue with.

        1. kina lillet*

          They set it aside for like a paragraph while describing some additional context, and get right back into asking how to push back on it.

          I get your point that it’s important, but the over-literal interpretation of the phrase is pretty nitpicky and misses that the OP actually seems to completely agree with you.

    2. Threeve*

      People often use “but okay” to mean “that’s idiotic but I’m not going to argue about it.”

      And OP’s “but okay” isn’t referring to the obviously racist “why is there no white history month?” argument, just the “women shouldn’t receive a benefit that men don’t” complaint. Which is definitely disingenuous, but not necessarily misogynistic.

      1. pancakes*

        Yes, I know. I think they should argue.

        The problem with that complaint isn’t so much that it’s misogynistic but that it’s grounded in a vacuous misunderstanding of what equality looks like. Trying to craft workplace policy around it is a bad idea and entirely unnecessary.

        1. Littorally*

          Should argue to the employee. Getting into it in this letter would be beside the point and derailing, which is why they left it there.

          1. pancakes*

            It isn’t beside the point; it’s basically the position the legal department has taken. That’s why the letter writer landed on that phrase for a moment before going to say that the muddled policy doesn’t make sense to them personally. I don’t disagree with kina lillet on that, but I also would not have written this letter, because I have the benefit of a legal perspective the letter writer probably does not. Trying to argue with this ding-dong employee seems like a relatively minor issue to me compared to getting the policy straightened out. The policy at the country level should not be crafted around this ding-dong’s thought process, but at the moment it is.

  38. Lady_Lessa*

    I have mixed thoughts about this. I’m all for other women being able to take extra time off due to problem periods. I would have liked it in college, because of the side effects of the pain killer I was on.

    But, the person who likes fairness across the board, doesn’t see any easy way to avoid problems. AND I don’t like the company knowing a woman’s health history either.

    I guess just have it as extra sick leave, and allow everyone to take some.

    1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      Serious question, why is it that “fairness” here is everyone being treated the same, regardless of need? Like, a building that has only stairs to enter is “equal across the board,” but is inaccessible to someone who uses a wheelchair. So we design spaces to be accessible to ensure that those with specific needs can still enter the building, even if able-bodied people don’t need it.

      1. Lady_Lessa*

        That’s one reason why I am torn.

        Being a contrarian, once ramps and doors with large push buttons to open are installed, anyone regardless of health, can use them.

        That’s why I tend more toward the giving everyone the same extra day, no questions asked is my favored solution.

  39. Double A*

    Wow, it’s almost like this man wants strong equal protection laws based on gender, just like feminists have been fighting for centuries and that is currently being actively eroded in the US (not that we ever fully got there). If he’s a US citizen I sure hope he votes in line with his values.

    1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      Nah, he wants an extra vacation day. If it was about equal protection, he’d use it when he was sick, not to go to the beach.

  40. voyager1*

    I can’t really find fault in the employee. Your company has extended this to everyone, he is exercising his leave.

    It is icky for sure, but this is a don’t hate the player hate the game situation.

    1. FashionablyEvil*

      No, he abused the leave policy and left his colleagues in the lurch. If he’d just extended a vacation, I might agree, but he specifically picked a day that left other folks scrambling.

      (Although, side note, who thought scheduling that meeting on a Friday in between holidays on the Thursday and the Monday was a good idea?)

      1. Lenora Rose*

        I think the suggestion of “each person gets one freebie SICK day a month, which they can use this code for” covers some of this. I mean, this guy would have called in with a fake cough if that was the case, but it would also make it much clearer to the whataboutism in general that it isn’t a “vacation” and might have discouraged this from the outset.

    2. I'm Just Here For The Cats!*

      Keep in mind that this is a law that women had to advocate for. That means that men who do this are probably doing it BECAUSE of sexism, patriarchy, etc.

      Because women had to advocate for this law I bet there are a lot of other “unfair” practices that benefit men more than women.

  41. Frally*

    I would LOVE period day. Omg, it sounds like the most wonderful thing! I get debilitating menstrual cramps, and being able to take the day off on those days sounds amazing.

  42. Savvy*

    I wonder if this country allows the employer to request a doctor’s note confirming that the employee is entitled to this type of leave? This looks like a clear cut case of leave abuse, regardless of what the leave is called (“period” vs. “sick”). Most companies have policies against leave abuse – meaning you can only take sick leave, for example, because you are ill, taking care of an ill family member, or attending doctor’s appointments. If you use sick leave to go on vacation or do something else non-health related, then it’s abuse of leave and can be disciplined. I don’t see why the OP doesn’t just approach it from this angle, especially since there was evidence he was using the “period leave” to go on a pre-planned vacation.

    1. Nanani*

      From my experience in one such country, your employer can already get access to what you used your health insurance for. ITS SO GREAT (its not great at all)

    2. Nameless in Customer Service*

      Would this be a doctor’s note to confirm that the employee taking such leave does have periods in general, or a “Go to the doctor on the day and get a note confirming you’re having your period right now” doctor’s note? I think those might have different logistics.

      1. Savvy*

        My thought was similar to getting a medical certification from a doctor to verify accommodation needs for a disability (coming from an ADA accommodation perspective). I was wondering if this law allows for this kind of procedure to verify who in general needs this kind of leave. So a note basically saying, yes my patient may have need to take period leave from time to time and that would be a blanket note to allow use for all future period leave requests.

    3. Broadway Duchess*

      I’m not sure this would work. I don’t think this can be applied across the board and most of the period-having people I know don’t see the doctor every 28 days to deal with it.

      1. Savvy*

        I was thinking just a blanket note that would say “yes my patient may have need to take period leave from time to time,” which would apply to all of their future period leave requests, not requiring a doctor’s visit every month.

        1. Gan Ainm*

          I get where you’re coming from, so that this guy can’t just keep claiming to need “period” leave when he obviously doesnt, but two things come to mind: 1.) this was working fine with no notes until the American lawyers and the guy(s) who want to take advantage came along, so why should women have to jump through extra hoops cause of them? 2.) generally speaking, the countries that have period leave often have very clear M/F sex/gender roles, so suggesting that women need a note to state they are women and capable of having s period would be received very oddly there.

          1. pancakes*

            I’d like to think the women have a solid basis for a complaint against the company for imposing new hoops to jump through that are at odds with their country’s period leave law. I don’t think it’s a great law, but if their country’s lawmakers wanted more hoops in it they’d have made more hoops.

    4. Empress Matilda*

      That’s a really good idea. Not every month, but it shouldn’t be hard for a doctor to confirm that (a) this person menstruates regularly and (b) suffers debilitating side effects, and is therefore eligible for this day *in general.* Have them renew the confirmation every 2-3 years, to account for changing conditions in the bodies of menstruating people, and you should be good.

      Obviously any system can be abused, and no response is going to be perfect. But this should at least take care of (most of) the whiny cis men, and make it clear who is eligible in general without getting into the details of any one person on any one day.

      1. Paris Geller*

        In an ideal world, sure. However, there is empirical evidence that many, many medical professionals don’t take women’s pain seriously, especially when it comes to issues of menstruation. The average length of time it takes to get diagnosed with a lot of conditions that can cause painful periods (endo, PCOS, etc.) is YEARS.

        1. Ayla*

          Yes. Some doctors disregard anything related to the menstrual cycle. At one point I had a gyno who told me they couldn’t do anything for me until I got a pelvic exam, so I needed to come in when I wasn’t menstruating–after I had repeatedly explained that the reason I needed treatment is because I had been bleeding continuously for 8 months.

      2. AthenaC*

        I like this idea, but I might even just stop at (a) this person menstruates regularly as a condition of eligibility in general. If someone wants to be eligible for period leave, that’s all it would take to “opt in.” It’s unfortunate that’s what’s needed, since apparently all the women worked out a decent honor system, but since at least one man feels entitled now, I think OP will need something clear and unambiguous like this to say, “Nope – sorry, you’re not eligible for period leave. You don’t have an eligibility letter on file.”

  43. missy*

    Legally, this is an interesting one. A period policy might be discriminatory based on gender if it was administered in a way that automatically gave the leave to all female workers (since many female workers may not be having a period because of menopause or other medical conditions). In 2019 JP Morgan got in trouble with the EEOC for a parental leave policy that gave longer leave to women in all situations (the policy was gender neutral as written, given longer leave to the primary caregiver, but as administered it defaulted to the idea that women were primary caregivers).

    Blanket policy for all women isn’t the way to go legally. I think you have to tie it specifically to menstruation, but then the policy for providing proof becomes tricky. After all, a menopausal cis woman shouldn’t be taking the leave, the same as the cis man shouldn’t. The policy has to also be accepting of trans men who may need the leave.

    1. louvella*

      You’re talking about legal issues in the US, though, and this isn’t the US.

    2. Gan Ainm*

      Except this isn’t in the US, the company was following local law and not having any issue til the US-based lawyers made a hash of it.

    3. Irish Teacher*

      Well, it appears that the leave is the law in the country it’s in, so I don’t think legally they have the option to go a different way. And it sounds like the country may not have great protection for trans rights?

  44. even more anon for this*

    Speaking as a trans person with a uterus who has historically had terrible menstrual cramps that required days off work regularly, I LOATHE the implementation of “period leave”. Can’t it just be sufficiently generous sick leave??? This feels so much like it would expose or marginalize trans people. I want to say “I am sick today”, not “I have my period today” (which is what point 1 in LW’s letter is all about, which LW dismisses). Everything about this makes my skin crawl. I would be so angry about this if I was living in this location and would be vocally advocating for it to be changed. Do not make me out myself as a menstruating person in order to access sick leave, just give me the sick leave.

    This guy might be being a jerk about it, but honestly why SHOULDN’T everyone just get that flexibility? If he’s actually this much of an ass, he probably has other performance issues that should be addressed. The gender essentialist approach to this is what creates the situation in the first place. The legal folks did the RIGHT THING. Especially because local law is awful and erases trans people.

    1. Nameless in Customer Service*

      This is a much more powerful argument against this policy, one thagt exposes actual problems with it, rather than the “when’s White history month” framing. I wonder if it might make more sense to present this policy as all employees have one “free” sick day a month for emergent illness that is only for that given month and doesn’t accrue or carry over to the next month (I don’t know if LW is in a position to suggest this modification, of course.)

      That doesn’t prevent people such as this troublesome coworker from using it as an excuse, but there has to be a tradeoff between preventing people from behaving badly and overly controlling their lives.

    2. Anon As Well*

      As a fellow trans-man, I agree 100% with this.

      “Speaking as a trans person with a uterus who has historically had terrible menstrual cramps that required days off work regularly, I LOATHE the implementation of ‘period leave;.”

      I also had nightmarish cramps, but always pushed my way through. In hindsight, I know I wasn’t productive on the worst days, but never felt I could actually take a day off. (Or tell my male, retired Army officer, boss why I wanted the day off. And this was before (or very early in) transition.

      “This feels so much like it would expose or marginalize trans people.”

      I’m 16 years into transition and had a hysto 15 years ago. My current boss and a few co-workers know I’m a transman. But most people don’t know and I want to keep it that way. Having to announce every month “having my period again” horrifies me.

      “I want to say ‘I am sick today’,’ not ‘I have my period today”‘

      ^ This!

      “Do not make me out myself as a menstruating person in order to access sick leave, just give me the sick leave.”

      I am quoting this so it can be read again.

  45. Phony Genius*

    One of the main problems here is that the legal department based in the US is reviewing and commenting on the legality of a policy for an office outside the US. Unless they are qualified to practice in that country, it sounds like there is an ethical issue with them trying to do this, instead of local lawyers. Do any of the lawyers here have an opinion on this?

  46. AdequateArchaeologist*

    One thing I’m unclear on is if women have these 12 days added to their leave bank or if it’s just “take the day is you need”, but doesn’t necessarily count into their leave. Like (for the sake of easy math) if the company gives 10 days of sick leave as blanket policy, do women start the year with 22 days? Or are they just not penalized for taking the day off for medical reasons once per month? (And don’t have the option to take those additional days cumulatively later.)

    Please note I’m all for the period leave (hi, could barely move/function when I had a cycle), but I’m curious how it’s specifically doled out.

    1. Nameless in Customer Service*

      Or are they just not penalized for taking the day off for medical reasons once per month? (And don’t have the option to take those additional days cumulatively later.)

      This was my impression on reading the letter, but I am neither a llama nor OP.

    2. doreen*

      It sounds like it’s a separate entitlement from sick leave – for example, at my job, we were entitled to leave for breast cancer screening and organ donation and other medical issues that did not get deducted from our leave bank. We didn’t get extra days added to our leave bank – the code on the timesheet for those leaves just doesn’t charge accruals , in the same way as accruals aren’t charged for jury duty.

    3. Yorick*

      It’s specifically one day a month, so it wouldn’t just all be added to the leave bank.

      If it’s in the leave bank rather than just a “call in and don’t have sick leave deducted” situation, it might work the same way a floating holiday does? Each month it updates so that you have one and you can use it or not, but it doesn’t accrue.

  47. bamcheeks*

    I feel like the fact that this is about menstruation and sexism is obscuring the core issue:

    I’m not sure what alternative will satisfy both the spirit of the local law and U.S. non-discrimination laws

    You’re in a mess because you are trying to satisfy two systems with very different aims and understandings, and there is a dick taking advantage of that confusion. Instead, figure out which law you actually need to follow. I’m confused on why you’re following the “spirit” of the local law, rather than the actual local law, but if it’s not actual local law but instead local custom / practice, then either follow that or if you can’t, follow US guidelines.

    But ask for a clear steer on using one or the other, and then defend that decision rather than trying to please both.

    That guy’s a dick. But he’s exploiting real confusion about what law applies, and you don’t have to give him that opportunity.

    1. bamcheeks*

      Also, watch out for his other being-a-dick-ness– he’s shown you what he’s like, it’s highly unlikely this isn’t come out in other ways too.

      1. Empress Matilda*

        Yes, yes, yes. Have corporate Legal figure out which law applies, and follow it. Deal with Mr WhatAboutMe and his performance issues separately.

        Good luck, in any case! I’d love an update when you have one.

  48. Saturday Slowpoke*

    I agree with others who have said to just give a very generous sick leave policy. Whatever leave is given to employees now, give everyone an extra twelve sick days, one for each month. Then those who need it have the extra day a month (for period pain or any illness/appointment/medical thing) and it can’t be misused as vacation leave. That seems like the simplest option that would still follow the local law and would get people who don’t menstruate to stop talking about how it’s not fair because they get the extra sick days too.

  49. Despachito*

    One thing is the letter of the law (and it seems that if it is written in the law that all women should be able to take the menstrual leave, it should be honored in that country), but another thing is the spirit of the law. I understand that if someone has painful menstruation they should have the possibility to stay at home since their work would not be at par anyway, but it rubs me the wrong way that it is formulated so that it covers ALL women. Because post-menopausal women, or women who don’t experience any pain during menstruation would be in the same situation as men – they do not need this day but are still entitled to it and could convert it into vacation, and in such a case I do not blame men they’d want it too.

    I’ve almost never experienced menstrual cramps but one of my friends had so debilitating ones she would sometimes even pass out. If we were working together, it would be useful for her to have MORE of those “menstrual sickness days”, while I would almost never need any. If I was given a free one-day vacation every month I can see why Wakeen from the accounting department would feel slighted, while I’d think it would be unreasonable for him to feel slighted because of my friend’s sick days, as she would badly need it and I wouldn’t.

    I do not think how this can be resolved from the point of view of law of the country in question, but if it is possible, I’d rather be generous with those who are actually not feeling well than having special menstrual days for all women. This would cover not only all people with difficult menstruation but everyone would feel that if he/she/they feel iffy they can stay at home and have a rest without facing problems at work.

    1. evens*

      Yes, good points. I, too, have very easy periods and don’t menstruate any more due to birth control. Why should I (ever) get a day off for cramps? I don’t have them. Still, I’d be entitled to an extra day off a month.

      Another issue is that if just women get an extra 12 days off a year, managers would prefer to hire men. This just gives them another reason to hire a man over an equal woman. Sure it’s illegal, but if the two are basically equal on paper, they could certainly defend their practice based on “interviewing” or whatever.

    2. Yorick*

      They’re not a vacation day, they’re like a sick day but for a specific medical issue. I know at least some of us have vacation and sick days in different buckets, and even if some of you don’t you should be able to wrap your head around it. For those who do have separate sick time, I presume at least many people here don’t take all their sick days if they aren’t sick, right? I sure don’t. It’d be the same as that. Despachito might not take those days off ever or might only need it here and there, while other women would take it every month. That’s the same as sick time – some people are more prone to sickness and are out sick all the time, while others are rarely sick and barely use any sick time.

      And LW says women don’t use period leave unless they need it. Please, let’s believe LW and stop assuming that every woman is taking an extra day off every month even if they’re elderly. Come on, if women in their 60s were taking the day all the time, no one would have the impression that women only take it when they need it.

      1. Despachito*

        Yes, this makes sense. It is similar as the sick days – the fact you are entitled to take them if you need them does not mean you WILL take them if you don’t. And a person who uses up all their sick days AND boasts that it was not because of sickness… this will be using up quite a lot of social capital, and will not be viewed favourably anywhere.

  50. Wisteria*

    “our branch has a policy that any locally-employed member of staff can take an unscheduled day off every single month, no questions asked. ”

    Is it an unscheduled day for any reason, or is it an unscheduled sick day? If the local rule specifies sick day, or whatever the local equivalent is, that would be a possible path of recourse. However, you would have to balance that against the negatives introduced by requiring people to justify sick days.

    There is another option, which is acknowledge the fact that this guy is gaming the system, acknowledge that the system is set up in a way that allows him to do so, accept the fact that this is the case regardless of how aggravating it is, and stop focusing on it. He is, after all, using a benefit that he is entitled to use, even if he is an ass for using it.

    And frankly, one ass can establish a precedent that enables a trans man to use the benefit without outing himself, which is an overall good thing. Maybe focusing on that will make this easier for you to deal with.

  51. idk*

    (2) it is discriminatory because it provides a benefit to women that men do not receive.

    i mean this could be simplified by just saying it’s a benefit provided to all people who menstruate — be they trans men, nonbinary people, or cis women.

    1. evens*

      It’s not, though. It’s provided to all women, including those with hysterectomies, those past menopause, and those with light periods. It’s not really a period day, it’s an extra benefit to all women.

        1. Empress Matilda*

          *trans men, sorry. The point is, this benefit is not applied to all women.

          1. Trans man*

            Your correction to trans men is accurate, but your follow up sentence is problematic. Trans men are not women. Better phrasing would be “…this benefit is not applied to everyone who menstruates.”

    2. BritChikkaa*

      Obviously none of you have lived in Japan.

      Like the LW said, the honour system works extremely well (and it’s not okay to cast doubt on what the LW is saying) because the culture of Japan is so completely different to America.

      There is very little possibility that a woman who doesn’t menstruate for whatever reason would lie to exploit this policy and if they did, well that’s no different from any employee lying that they are sick to get a sick day, which happens all the time in America and no one cares about that (heck there have been numerous LW here who desperately needed a day off for a specific purpose that their evil boss wouldn’t allow, and the advice is often “fake a sick day”).

      So people on AAM don’t seem to have a huge problem with the concept of taking a fake sick day overall, only when it’s a situation that’s perceived as OH NO WON’T SOMETHING THINK ABOUT THE POOR MENZ – and the entire whatabouttery Devil’s advocate question of “but what if one of those evil wiley women lie!!!” directly breaks the AAM rule of taking LW on faith because LW has stated the honour rule is respected.

      The issue of not being inclusive of trans men is a problem but again you can’t push American attitudes towards gender on to Japan.

  52. anonymous73*

    Is he also going to create a fake pregnancy to get maternity leave and a fake grandma that dies to get bereavement leave? Not all leave will benefit every person and this man is being ridiculous just to be ridiculous. I don’t know that there’s any real solution other than your legal team having the balls to stand up to the ridiculousness.

  53. L-squared*

    I guess I don’t see the problem as this guy requesting the leave he has been told he is supposed to give. If everyone gets this, then its not fair to be mad at him for taking it. This is a thing your company has decided to offer. Being mad because people are using something seems kind of questionable.

    1. Yorick*

      But he wasn’t told he was supposed to have this. He and some other men whined about the leave until it was extended to them, and then he snidely took it in a way that left his coworkers in the lurch.

      This guy sucks is the bottom line.

  54. hh*

    Lot of casual transphobia going on in the letter and replies here. I agree the male colleague in this instance is taking the mick, but I really don’t think that saying ‘this is only for women’ or even ‘this is only for people who menstruate’ is the right appraoch – you’re running the risk of forcing trans people to out themselves.

    1. Nanani*

      You are correct, but the thing is this sort of period leave is basically institutionalized cooties and 1000% does not acknowledge trans people. It is a law that shows up in very misogynistic places, NOT a progressive policy at all.
      There are a lot of problems -on top of- non-menstruating people crying about unfairness.

  55. trans and tired*

    I would be extremely uncomfortable with this. Thankfully I no longer menstruate but I certainly would not have felt comfortable invoking this when I did. If a person is too sick to work, they should be able to take sick time without the specific reason being scrutinized. Period.

    1. Despachito*

      “If a person is too sick to work, they should be able to take sick time without the specific reason being scrutinized. Period.”

      I see what you did here :-) and I completely agree. You expressed it in a much more pregnant manner I’d ever been able to.

    2. Other Claire*

      But presumably if women in LW’s country worked hard to get this benefit, they value it and a bunch of American internet commentators thinking it’s a weird benefit doesn’t invalidate it. It’s possible to have different cultural norms around taking period leave!

  56. calvin blick*

    I agree the application of this law to men is extremely stupid, but having worked for a large corporation I have seen nothing more unstoppable than the desire to relentlessly standardize things across the entire company, even it if makes zero sense. (Once, I worked a job where they explained if I got sick during the workday and went home and missed the next two days I was fine, but if I got sick and went home early two days in a row I could be fired, and there was nothing anyone could do). I feel like pointing out the many ways this rule is dumb will inspire HR/Legal/whoever is behind this to triple down and start enforcing this rule even more.

  57. IJustCantEven*

    –“He took “period leave” the Friday in between, even though it left us in the lurch for a big meeting that day in which he had a key role. … When I tried to level with him offline as in “Dude, you know this leave category is meant for women, what are you doing?” he looped in HR, who warned me that I’m not allowed to question an employee’s use of period leave.”

    I don’t like this section at all. On this blog, we’re frequently encouraged to not assume that everyone is a bad actor. While the timing is suspicious, he may have taken the day as an actual sick day, and by the tone of the letter I would take it that a women would never be called out for leaving you in a ‘lurch’. HR is correct for warning you to back down, it’s a benefit the company has decided to offer to all employees and it IS inappropriate to berate anyone for using it. I’m also super baffled at the corporate scheduling for this scenario…you’re off Thursday (and presumably Sat/Sun) and again Monday; so you’ve elected to have deliverables made on the Friday in between? How are you prepping for the meeting? No one typically takes this as a long weekend? You’re going to make your stakeholders wait 72+ hours for followup questions?

    I also don’t understand the pushback on allowing everyone the same level of paid leave. In many areas, paid menstrual leave is seen as anti-feminist and a more generous paid sick leave is a much more agreeable option.

    Should those with IBS or chronic migraines get a separate leave benefit not accessible to those not affected by it? I very seriously doubt the answer is yes…there’s no way that handing over that much information to an employer won’t end up causing a negative situation.

    LW already correctly pointed out that there are plenty of women that would also be able to abuse this benefit, as well as plenty of men that do menstruate that may otherwise be denied this benefit. Allowing everyone access solves both of those issues.

    1. BritChikkaa*

      He explicitly lied in saying it was period leave, though, in order to make a political statement about misandry. If it was a legit sick day he would have just said it’s a sick day.

      This is 100% misogyny.

      1. IJustCantEven*

        He used a benefit that is available to him.

        Is your opinion that he should have to prove that he was having period symptoms to use this benefit. Why wouldn’t a female employee need to do the same?

        1. pancakes*

          The legislature of the country they live in apparently didn’t want to require them to.

  58. theletter*

    It kinda feels like the kindest, most effective way to handle this is to add one floating sick/PTO day per month for everybody.

    people who have periods can take at least one extra ‘sick’ day a month without digging into their yearly pool.

    people without periods or without a difficult period can use the time if they have to for other wellness concerns, including family sickness, mental health, or proactive care – all things we should do but many of us won’t without explicit permission.

    the person who blew off a meeting in order to make a point should probably be punished more for missing the meeting than for trying to make a point. The company has already extended the leave to everyone, so why protest a moot point by disrupting his team? He could have easily made his point on a day that wouldn’t have such an impact, and it shows a lack of judgement on his part.

    Unless he was specifically protesting period leave altogether, and trying to prove that allowing it is too disruptive to the workplace, and that would be a serious lack of judgement.

    1. Abby*

      This person sounds very probelmatic. Outside of this one day, what are the other issues?

    2. Tea*

      I’m pretty sure that if you don’t add the period leave on top of that, you’d be violating the law. So it’d be everyone has a floating sick day + period leave.

      1. Abby*

        Hi. I am trying to respond based on the letter. I am aware of trans people just like I am aware that gender is not fixed and there are many different types of gender identities. Thi also applies to trans people because there are also different types of identity for trans people. To simplify things (I have brain damage) and to follow the letter I respond based on the letter. Because the letter was about a man who clearly does not fit anything you come up with (he’s just a man) my response was based on that.

        I have a piece of advice for you: don’t look for problems that don’t exist. I strongly advocate all rights for everyone. No exception.

        1. 1.*

          “don’t look for problems that don’t exist.”

          Gonna be honest, considering transphobia is a huge problem, this is pretty condescending.

          1. TransmascJourno*

            I agree. And that line in particular undermined everything that came before it.

        2. Hattie*

          “ I strongly advocate all rights for everyone. No exception”

          No you clearly don’t. You are essentially erasing trans men and are clearly ignorant about the fact that they are subject to oppression and other problems. You should delete your comment.

  59. Other Alice*

    Check with a local employment lawyer. It could be that, if you give everyone a day off per month, you’re required to offer a “period day” on top of that.

    And don’t bother trying to apply US laws to it. Local laws apply in this situation.

  60. Web Crawler*

    Just wanna say that I see your comments everywhere on this post and I appreciate you. I don’t have spoons of my own to speak up today, but I’m glad you do. (This is coming from a trans man.)

  61. JJM III*

    What if his wife, girlfriend, or significant other, suffers from painful periods, can he not take a “period day” also to stay home and take care of her? If not, that is a double standard.

    What if I, a man, suffers from gout (or other illness/disease) that flares up in a regular basis? Women get a free “suffering” day yet I would need to use sick time when I am in so much pain that I can not work. Again a double standard.

    If the company is going to offer 12 day of extra sick time, especially if it is paid, it needs to be offered to all employees.

    The easiest solution would be to get a doctors excuse for reoccurring painful periods and if the country has a FMLA type program use that for the days that you are unable to come to work due to the symptoms.

    1. Green great dragon*

      I shall pretend this is in earnest.
      – many people have periods they can’t work through – this law is for them. I have never heard of someone who had a period so bad they needed someone else to be with them 24/7. If that’s you, then a country/company with carer’s leave is what you need.
      – You can use sick leave. This is what sick leave is for. What about a woman who gets gout *and* painful periods?

    2. Empress Matilda*

      OP was pretty clear that the law is problematic – that’s not what we’re discussing here. And I actually agree with your solution, to get a doctor’s note to confirm a person is eligible over a period of time.

      But I strongly object to the scare quotes and the phrase “suffering day.” Multiple people on this thread have pointed out that they do have debilitating periods, and would genuinely benefit from a policy like this. Regardless of the content of your post, the tone is both condescending and unhelpful.

      1. JJM III*

        I added the quotes as generalization of the term suffering as inclusive of the other terms describing the same thing, not as scare quotes. Sorry you took it the wrong way.

        My point was that many people, both men and women, suffer from reoccurring/frequent painful problems (periods included) that don’t get a benefit of a special day for their problems, this benefit only applies to a specific group that others are not eligible for and they need to use sick time. This is unfair.

        There are programs and policies out there like intermittent FMLA that does the same thing as this period day.

    3. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      There is a difference between offering a specific leave for a thing that potentially affects half the population and specific leave for a specific illness like gout that few people have. I mean, if someone does have a chronic illness that pops up regularly, I think they absolutely should be accommodated wherever possible. But that is a different scenario than a (mostly) predictable biological process that affects like half the workforce on a monthly basis.

      And as Green great dragon points out, what if I have awful periods and gout? If I use my days for the periods, am I just out of luck when my gout flares up?

    4. Irish Teacher*

      I think it’s hard to judge without knowing the other benefits legally available in the country. As I mentioned above, I get two different “buckets” of sick leave. I have a maximum of 7 days across two years of “uncertified leave” and up to six months paid (and I think something like another six months on half pay) across maybe 4 years of “certified leave.” Things like gout would probably come under certified leave, where you get a doctor’s note, so you would have up to six months across four years to take for that without losing pay. On the other hand, it would be rather difficult to get a doctor’s note for period cramps, so you would only be able to take 7 days off for those across two years. So in that case, making those a separate issue that allowed more than 7 days without a doctor’s note might make sense.

      And honestly, the company isn’t deciding this policy anyway; it’s the law, so they probably aren’t permitted to require a doctor’s note.

    5. Delphine*

      If a woman has gout, she too would need to use sick time. The difference is, you’re never going to get a period.

  62. Hiring Mgr*

    Obviously this guy’s a jerk and seemingly pretty open about it. My initial generous thought was that maybe he’s taking it to be around to help out his wife/partner/gf etc.. in the same way I took a week of parental leave when each of my kids was born

  63. Lady Knittington*

    So people who have periods get optional leave if needed and (American) people who don’t get periods complain that it’s a benefit that other people get that they don’t. Do they think that having a period is all about rollerskating with dogs and balloons, just like in the commercials?
    I can’t help thinking that giving people without periods (overwhelmingly men) a day off for fun once a month is giving them a benefit that people with periods (overwhelmingly women) don’t have. It’s not as if the men are taking the day off, curled around a hot water bottle on the sofa and eating chocolate.
    What’s next? They want a few months off next time somebody has a baby, because they don’t get the benefit of maternity leave?!

    1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      EXACTLY.
      Or if someone takes bereavement leave after a loss, does that other person come up and demand more vacation time?

      I’m pretty confident that one piece of this is how women’s pain is discounted and minimized (especially for women of colour).

  64. Polar Vortex*

    Agreed, a call out about remembering there are trans people would be nice.

    I mean I get this law isn’t for trans people, and could easily be a very interesting side convo about that, it’s still frustrating for the continual call out of “men don’t have periods” when I’m a transmasc dude currently on my period (as much as I wish otherwise).

    1. DG*

      Yeah, the guy in question here is most likely just a jerk, but my mind immediately envisioned a scenario where a stealth trans guy takes menstrual leave at an inopportune time (around a long weekend or coinciding with a major deadline) and is pressured to out himself to avoid punishment from his coworkers/HR.

  65. Just Your Everyday Crone*

    I’m seeing a lot of comments about how cis women who don’t have painful periods could abuse this policy, and IME, what’s way more likely is for painful-period-having-people to limp in and gut it out while downing fistfuls of advil. One of the things I find infuriating about this particular example and the guy leaving his team in the lurch is remembering all the times I sucked it up and powered through.

  66. Green great dragon*

    So there is an approach that gives everyone can have the same time off, and if they have a bereavement, norovirus, painful periods and the flu one year then tough, they get no vacation that year.

    There is an approach that tries to give everyone the same vacation, and if someone is hit with sickness, bereavement etc, gives them days off to cover it that do not affect their vacation entitlement. This is hard to do fairly and nowhere does it perfectly, but many places try to do it to some extent.

    Neither of these is wrong. But the country LW is in has chosen the second approach in this respect, and people without periods taking time off like this is like me demanding 5 days ‘bereavement leave’ for a holiday because someone else got bereavement leave for their sibling and I don’t have one, or demanding a month off because somone else got a month paid sick leave while dealing with a serious illness and I wasn’t ill. I am not impressed.

    1. DG*

      There’s at least one other option, which I’ve seen at my company. Many of my company’s time off policies leave a lot to be desired, but they handle sick leave pretty well:

      Sick leave is unlimited, and anyone can take up to five days of consecutive sick leave without requiring medical documentation. (For more serious illness beyond five consecutive days, HR will ask for documentation or begin the process for short-term disability.) So theoretically, you could be out for five days with the flu, come back for a couple days, take a day off for menstrual cramps, come back for a couple days, take a day off to tend to a sick kid, etc. without any of that impacting your vacation time or ability to take sick leave in the future. I’m sure there’s a point where someone could abuse the policy and be reined in by their manager/HR, but I appreciate the flexibility it offers.

  67. Just a Question*

    Were postmenopausal women included in the menstruation day policy? Or women who had undergone hysterectomies? Or are using birth control that stops periods? Better to have generous sick leave for all. I’m postmenopausal, by the way.

  68. evens*

    This whole issue feels silly to me. I don’t blame men for feeling this policy isn’t fair. I’m a woman, but due to my IUD, I’ve barely had a period in 15 years. Should I still get period leave? What about women past menopause? Do they get period leave? That’s just as ridiculous as men getting period leave. If women (no matter how light their period — mine was basically a hygienic annoyance rather than an unproductive day in bed) get a “period day” even if they don’t get periods, men should get a “period day” too.

    If a woman has bad periods — I know there are many — she should be accommodated using FMLA or sick days, not an extra-special-for-women-only day off. Think of how many people complain about the extra breaks smokers get!

    I also think men and women without periods should have some better guidelines about when to take their “period day.” Women who need the time off for their period should take it as needed, but men/women without periods should have some rules about days not to miss, etc.

    1. Green great dragon*

      I think the guidelines are pretty clear. All those people you list – nope, not entitled, and not taking it (as per the LW).

      If those with painful periods had to use up sick leave on this, they’d have less left for other illnesses (which they get at just the same rate as everyone else).

      I have no problem with people saying they would do it a different way. But I am seeing loads of people here trying to make it seem ridiculous in a way that it clearly isn’t – any more than saying people with more illnesses get more sick leave, and people who are unfortunate enough to lose family members get more bereavement leave.

    2. ferrina*

      Well, we could require that men who claim period leave have one of those period cramp simulators so they can accurately assess that their reason for leave meets the same threshold as period pain.

    3. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      The whole point is that if someone is experiencing lots of pain from a period, they get a day off. And as LW says, there is no indication that this policy has been abused in the past. People in pain take the day. People whose periods are no big deal don’t take the day. It’s about need, not the mere fact of having periods. Enough people have this need, so there is a law in that country.

      If I had bad periods (did as a teenager, it sucked real bad!), I’d use up all my sick leave with that and have nothing for any other health stuff that comes up. Just because I happened to have a body that menstruates.

    4. Irish Teacher*

      I assume the point is that any woman can take it if SHE feels she needs it. Yeah, it is possible a woman who has no periods or very light periods might decide to take the day off and if she is of the age to menstruate, I doubt anybody could really say she DIDN’T have period related problems, but…that is true of most sick leaves. I don’t think women are any more likely to abuse this policy than to abuse sick leave policies or family leave policies or bereavement policies. Heck, bereavement leave is generally given based on how close a relationship is determined to be – x many days for a spouse or parent, less for a grandparent, etc. So somebody who has never met their father, has no relationship with him and feels nothing on his death and has no intention of attending his funeral COULD theoretically take the days off to go to the beach whereas a person who was raised by their uncle might get less time to mourn him. My point is that anything can be abused.

      I don’t know personally how I feel about this policy. It’s from a different culture and I don’t know how it fits into their other leave policies, whether there are other leaves that only benefit certain people, what their general culture is around gender and periods and so on, so it’s hard to judge, but I don’t really think “well, women who DON’T have problems with their periods could get a day off they don’t need and nobody would know they were gaming the system” is really that big a problem. Or if it is, it’s a problem with a whole load of types of leave, not just this one.

  69. Auntie Flo*

    Feeling petty and vengeful because I’m currently on my period and it’s not a picnic. I propose putting bloody pads all over the vacation-goer’s desk (and the desk of any other cisgender man who abuses the period day policy). This way, they can enjoy even more of the period experience they so desperately desire.

    1. 1.0*

      How are you so confident you can definitely clock trans men? Are you going to interrogate women to make sure they’re cis and to verify their symptoms are bad enough?

  70. Sharon*

    The policy should be: “If you have a chronic medical condition, you may take one day off leave off per month with no questions asked and it will not count towards your bank of sick days. You do not have to disclose the condition, but you must affirm that you are taking the day off for medical reasons, NOT for vacations.” A chronic medical condition would be defined as any medical condition that inhibits one’s ability to do work at least once a month. This could be periods but it could also be migraines, anxiety/depression, etc. This would be more fair and inclusive because trans men wouldn’t be forced to out themselves, and people who struggle with conditions besides periods would also have a day off.

    1. ferrina*

      I just proposed something similar upthread! I like this because it’s more inclusive, and the WhatAboutMe can enjoy all the chronic medical conditions they want.

    2. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      I have periods and a separate chronic medical condition that messes with my ability to work. But under your scheme only one of those would count. It’s OK to have something designed specifically for 50% of the workforce.

      1. AdequateArchaeologist*

        “it’s ok to have something designed specifically for 50% of the workforce” This.

        The policy is designed for the 50% of the worlds population who experience menstruation. I view menstruation as an additional medical condition likely to cause suffering ON TOP of what those who don’t menstruate have. It’s possible to, as other posters have pointed out, have chronic illness and difficult periods. And it’s ok to want to accommodate those who menstruate. You know what the other half of the population gets? Not having a period! No bleeding, no cramps, no extra gastrointestinal distress, etc. I think that’s a pretty fair trade!

    3. Ann O'Nemity*

      This is probably closer to the spirit of the law. From what I’ve read about countries that offer this (Japan, South Korea), many women do not take a day off every month – or even at all. It is very much intended for debilitating symptoms, not just an extra free day you get every month.

    4. Evan*

      If you’re comfortable giving a day to everyone, you could call it a “personal day” or something. Everyone needs a day off now and then.

      1. Liz T*

        But wouldn’t the chronic condition version still be a good idea? It wouldn’t take away by benefit from people who get periods, painful or otherwise.

  71. Ana Gram*

    Trying to apply US legal standards and US cultural norms to a foreign work place is probably an exercise in frustration.

    I’m surprised your company is trying to do that.

  72. Grey*

    As a man, I wasn’t seeing the issue here because it didn’t take anything away from the women. But then I got to this, and changed my opinion:

    because now they get a day off when they feel sick, and non-period-having people get a day off for fun. That’s not equal…

    I agree.

  73. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

    How much of the debate going on here is because our societies discount women’s pain? (And especially women of colour’s pain). My sense is that a lot of men believe that periods aren’t a big deal. From stories I’ve heard, this includes male doctors. It’s not exclusively men, but it is disproportionately men.

    The fact is that periods can be super painful. It’s high time that we, collectively, acknowledge that and take it seriously.

  74. tg33*

    Abby, are you saying men and women should have equal parental leave? That’s fine, but women deal with a lot of physical changes that can go badly wrong and it takes some time to recover from childbirth, which is a medical issue, not a parental issue. Thus maternity leave.

    1. ferrina*

      Both parents benefit from equal (reasonable) parental leave. Yes, women need more time to physically recoup from the trauma of giving birth, but when I need 4 weeks to recoup and my husband only has 2 weeks of parental leave, that leaves 2 weeks where I’m both physically trying to recoup and juggle an infant on my own.

      1. tg33*

        I have three teenagers, so I’m afraid I’ve forgotten the early days by now. 4 weeks seems a very short time for recovery, I would think that at least 6 weeks for the lochia to finish would be reasonable. However, I know everyone deals with what they have.

    2. Boof*

      As a woman… please. Parental leave, not maternity leave. It helps in so many ways.
      If it was strictly about physical recovery I mean I feel like crap when pregnant so I felt pretty good within a few days of having my abdomen back to myself. What I don’t want is to be stuck at home with a baby by myself for weeks!

    3. CCC*

      Why? Why can’t there be parental leave for the parental issues, and medical leave for medical issues?

  75. Reluctant Manager*

    There’s what your company should do, but I also wonder how this dude’s coworkers are taking it. Seems to me that this is what shunning is for.

  76. learnedthehardway*

    The whole thing feels very weird to me, and I would have been incredibly uncomfortable as a young professional telling anyone that I was taking a day off for period cramps.

    I would approach it as “you have one free day per month for personal health reasons” and make it – like your HR has said – independent of gender. Yes, it feels like men are getting a benefit that women have fought hard for, but it is the reality of what you are dealing with, and it would give you a way to push back against entitled men who feel it is a free vacation day.

    I would approach your objection to the man who used the day as a vacation day from the perspective that this is a day provided for serious personal health reasons only, and therefore his use of the day was not appropriate. In fact, I would ask HR to draft a policy about the use of the day, so that there is a company-wide standard for how the day is to be used by employees.