Voice of Real Australia is a regular newsletter from Australian Community Media, which has journalists in every state and territory. Today's is written by ACM national editorial trainee Millie Costigan.
Australian unions are pushing to introduce protections in the Fair Work act for paid menstrual and menopausal leave.
For workers who need it, this is a welcome intervention to destigmatise period pain and promote the health and wellbeing of workers, especially women, who face a myriad of gender specific challenges in the workplace like harassment.
The Australian Workers' Union (AWU), United Workers' Union (UWU), Transport Workers' Union, Rail, Tram and Bus Union, and the Australian Workers' Manufacturing Union say that entitlements should be modernised to reflect the specific health experiences of women.
More than 830,000 people suffer from endometriosis at some point in their life, according to Endometriosis Australia. This condition, which is difficult to diagnose, causes extreme pain during periods, chronic pelvic pain, and bowel and bladder dysfunction.
Painful symptoms can make it hard for women to work or study, which has long-term socioeconomic impacts.
The policy would enable women to take one day of paid menstrual leave per month, or 12 days a year.
Critics say this type of leave may stigmatise women in the workplace.
Menstrual leave has been a legal right in Japan since 1947, but fears that it may be interpreted as weakness means many do not take it.
Indonesia introduced menstrual leave in 1948, but in the 1990s the Association of Indonesian Businesswomen called for a repeal of the policy, deeming it "contradictory to the aims of women's emancipation".
These early incarnations of menstrual leave were decided pro-natalist, designed to protect and enshrine women's roles as mothers and carers in the national economy.
Australia should pursue radical and progressive reforms for women in the workplace and menstrual and menopausal leave sounds like an excellent proposal.
Whether working women will feel supported and encouraged to take it depends on maintaining workplace environments that are inclusive, equal and prioritise workers wellbeing.
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