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Period Leave – A Male Perspective


A mild fever, diarrhea, body cramps are all strong-enough reasons why I have taken leave in my 25-year career. If I had a positive Leave balance and there was no pressing assignment at hand, my bosses have never denied me this.

Over time, it is something I took for granted. From Y2K onwards, women’s participation in the workforce in India increased mani-fold and the idea of gender inclusivity slowly started to take shape. Women’s issues were also discussed more openly and many topics that were earlier considered taboos were seen in a different light with greater empathy. Well, the needle has moved, although not appreciably enough.

Shedding the shield

Then, social media happened and we were privy to these discussions in online forums as women started to open up and share their thoughts which provided deeperinsights for us to understand the feminine viewpoint. From a male standpoint, some did, others rejected downright and many more are still struggling to toe the line and hopefully, things will get better. For some years now, I have been wondering what if these “symptoms” (mentioned at the outset) were to occur every month in my case and I’d find it difficult to put in the requisite eight hours at work? While the comparison may not be appropriate but I am using this example only because as a man, that’s the closest I will get to feel physical discomfort which many women undergo during the days they menstruate. Many a time, much worse! I have seen these painful moments in my family and have wondered how they carry on regardless?

Tabula Rasa

Recently, food app-maker Zomato announced Period Leave for their female employees – i.e.10 days in a year. In a matter of minutes, the news went viral and earned a million ayes from women, particularly the working class. But in the ensuing days, as the conversations ripened, a very nuanced outlook took shape.

Barkha Dutt, raised a point. She said, being a woman, she had to fight hard throughout her career to get those special assignments in a male-dominated world. And, there are a million others who do so every day – that part is well documented.

Work-life is cut-throat and seldom fair. There’s so much of “politics” that we the working classexperienceevery day, even without being politicians. Toxicity is a part of corporate life and no amount of Wellness programmes can wish it all away.

 I believe that “wellness” is an effective veneer, but worn thin.In such an environment will it not be perceived as “yet another female privilege”?

Is it a normal trend or an aberration to see women employees earning fat bonuses or getting promoted the year they availed maternity leave? Do ponder over this. If not, then why? Promotions happen (usually) in a cycle (2 – 3 years) so why should it matter if a woman has been out for six months? Logic says it should not. But does it happen that way in reality for most women?

Barkha Dutt goes on to add, employees in the organized sector, do get sick leave and if a woman feels the need to take leave on any of the days, she can or will, under this category. Why does it have to be a separate mandate? Today, we are moving towards an outcome-based approach to employment. The mandate, if any, is on KRAs and not so much on the hours clocked in. It is even more palpable when WFH has become the norm.

Human productivity should not be a measure of the number of hours spent in the office but of the outcome.

Zomato cannot be discredited for this announcement. It is a good trend to set and hopefully, many others will follow suit. But it is important to bring about a change in mindset which does not look upon any gender as unequal but considers merit, based on the outcome, as criteria for career growth.

Yes, it’s not going to be a smooth ride to get there. And, let’s not even pretend otherwise. It may not even happen in my lifetime. Hereon, it’ll be interesting to observe how many women come forward to apply for leave under this category and whether it’ll be a continued practice. As men, the least we can do is not to raise eyebrows or even stifle that demonic snigger.

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