Devleena believes that bringing about a change of this sort will go a long way in changing the stigma around the topic.
At a time when the topic of feminism is a cause for raging debate, there are those who are ready to do something about it. To walk the talk, Culture Machine, a city-based company that generates digital content, which is socially relevant and entertaining has started a policy that gives a day off to its women employees on the first day of their periods. The company, which has won accolades for its HR policies, also put up a video on social media showing how the women of the company reacted on finding out the news. They have also directed a petition to the Ministry of Human Resource Development and the Ministry of Women and Child Development to make this a policy applicable to companies across India.
“Culture Machine’s Blush – a woman-centric channel talks about a myriad of themes on women empowerment, and upliftment, so I think it was a time that we started practising what we preached. The idea sparked off when one of our employees was having an awful day due to cramps, and that is when we thought, why not take period pain seriously and speak up for women experiencing it,” says Devleena S Majumdar, president of Human Resources, Culture Machine.
Devleena believes that bringing about a change of this sort will go a long way in changing the stigma around the topic. “Everyone knows it’s a natural and an inevitable bodily process. We are conditioned to feel embarrassed about our periods, and societal pressure expects us to keep that time of the month quiet, and out of sight. When the truth is that women spend up to 10 days a month dealing with period-related changes to their body, and we experience this monthly process over decades of our lives,” she asserts.
Feminist and poet Harnidh Kaur also feels that a policy like this can go a long way towards empowering women to talk openly about their periods as well as create a platform for better HR policies overall.
“As someone with endometriosis, I know how difficult the first day of periods can get. So, a system like this is welcome as it helps women talk about it. Menstruation is discussed in schools and colleges, so why not at workplaces as well? It may be a slow process, but I am sure that it will make a difference eventually,” she says.
Mahabanoo Modi Kotwal, director of the Vagina Monologues, rubbishes the move. “It is unnecessary. Women have been doing this for ages, and I feel that there is no need for any such policies to be brought into place,” she says decisively.
However, Harnidh points out that a move like this would also help those who are suffering from other invisible ailments. “Acknowledging something like periods as a legitimate reason to take a day off will hopefully cause a shift in paradigm when it comes to HR policies around invisible illnesses. Both men and women suffer from mental illnesses, people who suffer from Type A diabetes and other disorders which may not be obvious, but are legitimate reasons for not being able to work. A move like this will hopefully lead to a more humane HR policy towards such issues overall,” she says.
However, there are certain aspects that one must keep in mind before implementing such a policy in their companies, according to Rajdeep Bhattacharyya, director-HR, Cipla Health, who is quick to clarify that his views are personal and don’t reflect those of his organisation.
“Firstly, you have to look at the nature of the enterprise. If it is a place where the physical presence of the employees is essential, like manufacturing plants, then it would be harder than if it were an IT company where the presence of the employee is not necessary for work to be done. The culture of the company is also another factor. If a company has a relatively mature HR policy, it would be easier to implement. However, if the enterprise does not have that kind of faith in its employees, then it would be somewhat difficult to employ such policies. Lastly, it depends on how critical the position of the person is in the company. For instance, for an on-call surgeon in an ER, it would be tought to implement these policies,” he explains.
It all boils down to the mentality of the company executives. “Maternity leave is also something that may similarly inconvenience a company. However, there is no question about the fact that it’s necessary. Maybe in time, companies will also learn to treat periods with a similar gravity and realise that these leaves are just as essential. It boils down to the mentality of business owners,” Rajdeep concludes.