Party-list representative Narciso Santiago filled House Bill 4888 aka Menstruation Leave Act of 2008 which provides for a one-day holiday each month for working women going through menstruation. Hailed by feminists, welfare adherents, socialists, and hordes of supportive Filipino women, Santiago proposed a half-day salary for the catamenial holiday and violators are threatened with a fine of P30,000 or a jailtime of 30 to 180 days.
Finding inspiration from similar legislations in Korea, Japan and Indonesia, Rep. Santiago makes many Filipino women happy. After all, a large percentage of them suffer from some form of menstruation-related discomfort, a leading cause of job absenteeism in their ranks.
More than 50% of menstruating women experience pain (dysmenorrhea,) most of which aren’t serious though and are treatable by medications. Others suffer from menstrual irregularities—from lack of monthly shedding to excessive flow or more frequent periods accompanied by non-specific complaints of headaches and emotional tensions.
However, about 10% of these women may experience manifestations that can be debilitating. Aside from pain, they harbor signs and symptoms of varying severity—-mood changes, fatigue, and signs of some underlying conditions such as infections, endometriosis, endometrial hyperplasias, ectopic pregnancy, genital tract malformations, cervical, uterine and ovarian tumors.
Menstruation, the time-honored monthly shedding of the uterine lining (endometrium) is a physiologic process. It occurs once a woman starts menarche at puberty and ends at menopause. A normal part of the female function, menstruation is not a disease. For this reason, medicalization of menstruation and allowing catamenial leaves on the job deserve more thinking and consideration. Menstruation holidays raise the questions of medical necessity and it opens up the possibility of indolence, slowing, and discrimination in the workplace.
The intention of the Menstruation Leave Act of 2008 is good, but this may not be beneficial for the country in the long run. With about 50% of Filipino females in the labor force, the budget to pay for a monthly menstrual holiday is enormous. This lowers work dividends and increases the overhead cost of employers. Paid menstruation leaves make women’s productivity lesser than that of men and these can spawn a backlash in the hiring of females in the workplace. The Menstruation Leave Act can drive small businesses into bankruptcy if employers have no money to pay for them.
In South Korea, after the government left the discretion to compensate menstrual leaves on the employers and companies, the courts have been deluged with protests and lawsuits because many have been refused payments. Labor unions fight with the workers for benefits. And employers start investigating who among those who skip work is truly menstruating and who among them have reached menopause which leaves them ineligible for benefits.
In Japan, the decision to request for menstrual leave is left on the worker. According to Japan’s Labor Act, female workers can request for catamenial leaves when menstruation makes it extremely hard for them to function in their jobs. Doctor’s certification may not be necessary.
Following the belief that the government and businesses must provide for most comforts of its citizens, the paid menstrual leave package in Indonesia boggles the mind of capitalists and socialists alike. With a floundering and corrupt economy, Indonesia has generously added two days’ paid leave for parents who have their children baptized, two days’ leave if their children marry, and another two days’ paid circumcision leave for the parents, not for the son. Aren’t all these labor perks wonderful? They are good if governments and employers can afford the expense. Sometimes, the law and reality don’t easily come together that easy. =0=