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Is Company's 'Period Policy' for Women Progressive or Repressive?

The Short of It

A British company is considering adopting a "period policy," that would allow women with painful periods to stay home from work. Not surprisingly, it's sparking a huge debate.

The Lowdown

The company, a non-profit called Coexist, says its female staffers will now be permitted to take time off when they're menstruating.

About three-quarters of Coexist's employees are women. And according to company director Bex Baxter, the policy would allow them to take time off if their periods make it too painful to work—without it being counted as a sick day.

"I have managed many female members of staff over the years, and I have seen women at work who are bent over double because of the pain caused by their periods," Baxter told The Guardian. "Despite this, they feel they cannot go home because they do not class themselves as unwell. We wanted a policy in place which recognizes and allows women to take time for their body's natural cycle without putting this under the label of illness."

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Anything that gives women more flexibility in the workplace has got to be a good thing ... right? It is especially when you consider that most U.S. companies still don't even offer paid leave for maternity.

Well, that all depends on who you talk to.

"Offering a policy like this one allows employers to show they are open and supportive about a subject that is often considered off-limits in the workplace and could have positive impact on recruiting and retention efforts, especially female workers," Glassdoor community expert MaryJo Fitzgerald told CBS News. "However, each employer needs to fully understand what benefits and perks are best for their company before introducing new policies."

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Others, however, fear that singling women out as unable to work because of a biological process may reinforce the notion that women aren't as capable as men.

"What a period policy like this claims, is exactly what feminists and women's liberation movements have argued against throughout history—the idea that women are beholden to their bodies, not their reason," wrote Ella Whelan for the International Business Times. "Arguing that a woman is less productive during her cycle is the same argument that was made in the past against supposedly hysterical and uncontrollable women. Are we really willing to support the stereotype that women go a bit mad once a month?"

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The Upshot

I'm all for flexibility for women in the workplace, but this kind of sounds like a Saturday Night Live skit to me. And I'm someone who suffers from cramps so bad that not even 800 milligrams of ibuprophen can help. But not all women do. And maybe they'd prefer to have policies put in place to excuse them from working during other rough times—like when they have a paper cut or a hangnail.

This sounds like a slippery slope to me, one that leads right back to women not being perceived as equal to men in the workplace. But if they want to put a hangover policy in place, however, that'd be something I could get behind.

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