China’s Ningxia Hui autonomous region in the North recently announced a labor protection decision on a matter of common concern among female employees who may need more leave time because of it -- painful cramps during menstruation.
Even before this, at least 10 areas --- the cities of Beijing and Shanghai, and Shaanxi, Anhui, Zhejiang, Hubei, Jiangsu, and Jiangxi provinces -- had already proposed that a leave period of up to 2-3 days for female employees as part of the local regulations on labor protection.
At the national level, a female member of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), Zhang Xiaomei, suggested a special provision for female employees as a labor protection ruling at the CPPCC and National People’s Congress, in 2011, and a year later a relevant regulation was put into effect.
Zhang’s argument was that around 85 percent of women think that their period severely affects their work and their lives and 78.5 percent got no special help during that time.
Many regulations only allow for a “paid leave”, for example, in Beijing where, if a female employee cannot continue her work because of painful cramps, she can ask for one day of paid leave -- with a note from the doctor. Elsewhere, for example in Shanxi and Anhui provinces, they are also required to supply sanitary napkins for female employees or a subsidy to buy them.
Moreover, even though many provinces may have related regulations and state that female employees can ask for leave, a majority of them limit the ruling to those engaged in field work, work at extreme temperatures or physical exertion -- and they still need a doctor’s approval.
Going a bit further, Jiangsu province states that such female employees cannot be asked to work at excessive heights, in extreme temperature or out-of-doors and need to be given alternative work and a 1-2-day paid leave. In other lines of work, those who cannot perform their work can get one day of paid leave -- with a doctor’s note.
Meanwhile, Shanghai has had a regulation on female labor protection for 29 years, going back to 1987, when it announced temporary provisions for female employees stating that those working at low-temperatures or out-of-doors can get one day off.
In fact, some enterprises say that giving leave for menstrual cramps will only lead to higher costs and management difficulties, and, to make matters worse, if too many female employees ask for leave at the same time, it could foul up operations.
And even internet users are joining in on the complaining, with one person named @LF Li Fan -- expressing concern about the leave policy by saying that by the time the woman gets a doctor’s note from the hospital and has to go elsewhere for other formalities, the leave time will already be over and it will add to the pain. And, if this is the case, women will find it difficult in getting a job.
So, what do we need to do to give female employees the leave time they need during their painful period? In one response, Zhou Bin, a labor law specialist, suggested only that employers respond to the policy by seeking the help of the company’s labor union.