Wed | Oct 4, 2023

Gov’t urged to sanction menstrual leave

Published:Thursday | March 9, 2023 | 1:03 AMCorey Robinson/Senior Staff Reporter
Dr Marsha Smalling, principal of Glenmuir High School.
Dr Marsha Smalling, principal of Glenmuir High School.

Two months after the implementation of paternity leave, the principal of the Glenmuir High School in Clarendon is asking the Government to do more for families by sanctioning menstruation leave, similar to provisions in some First World countries.

“I’m dead serious,” affirmed Dr Marsha Smalling, whose call excited the mostly female in attendance at an International Women’s Day Brunch and Awards Ceremony put on by the South St Catherine Chamber of Commerce in Old Harbour, St Catherine, on Wednesday.

“Our cycles generally last for five days, and I find that sometimes women struggle for days out of that. So we fight through nausea and the lack of appetite, and we can hardly go, and the expectation from persons is that we are to keep going in spite of the pain and discomfort,” Smalling later told The Gleaner, adding that most women deserve the paid break.

She proposed that Jamaican women should be granted three days in the first stages of their periods and up to five days if difficulties persist. This, however, is providing that they present a doctor’s recommendation, she cautioned.

And not only them, she posited. Men should also be allowed time off – if even up to three days – to stay at home and care for their spouses.

“In the same way that companies are now extending paternity leave, men being granted this time should also be discussed. Who wouldn’t want to be home on menstrual leave and then you have your spouse there to make some soup or place a heater on your stomach?” argued Smalling, triggering applause from the group of teachers, doctors, lawyers, entrepreneurs, and police officers.

Yesterday, a senior member of the Government, who asked not to be named, questioned how such a system would work.

“It would be difficult to know the need for leave, and it could be abused,” he said. “Many women would have a week off every month! Would that be acceptable to employers?”

He was not alone.

Treacha Reid, president of the Chamber of Commerce, said that while she is supportive of menstrual leave, employment productivity would inevitably suffer.

“It will impact employment a whole heap, but it will still affect employment because when they come to work, do they actually work at that time? Most of the time the females are in the bathroom or the relax room not working,” she said, adding that it is difficult to determine the level of pain women who are having their cycles experience.

“Maybe the 40-hour work week would have to change to 45 or 50 hours, which will be another big problem in the country,” Reid said. “People are going to want the one week for menstrual leave, but they are not going to want to give their bosses it back. So it is really a balancing act.”


Constable Ronette Allen-Stewart was among the females recognised for her service during yesterday’s event.

Five months into her probationary period, Allen-Stewart has issued 557 tickets, made 39 arrests with 30 convictions, and seized three motorcycles.

She hopes to become a police commissioner but notes that respect is not easy to come by as a female cop.

Dealing with monthly menstruation pains is even harder, and training school offers no solace for female recruits like her.

“Many females go through some wicked pains, and even through training, many females cannot do the physical when it comes to that time. So I support menstrual leave fully as long as they have a medical certificate,” she argued. “I think it is really necessary because some females have some wicked cramps where they can’t even get out of bed.”

Last month, Spain joined Taiwan, South Korea, Japan, Indonesia, and Zambia with the passage of menstruation leave, affording females with especially painful menstrual cramps paid menstrual leave from three to five days. Several local commentators have supported the move.