Recently, the concept of paid leave for women on first day of mensuration has been a widely debated topic in India. This is based on the idea that first day of mensuration cycle is immensely discomforting for women, therefore they might not be at their best productive state, as such allowing an extra paid leave would do no harm. It is first introduced by “cultural machines” which will be the base for this article. Since then it has been warmly welcomed especially among the women folks and soon became a sensational topic all over India. There is no denying the fact that if this implied as a national policy, could be another step towards making a women friendly society, but there are many cost and challenges associated with it, which seems to not to be getting required attention. Therefore in this article these costs and challenges would be addressed to present a wider dimension of this policy if introduced as a national policy.
- The major implementation challenge in this policy would be the existence of unequal mensuration cycles among women. It has been proved through scientific research that women may have different mensuration cycles which may vary from 21 to 35 days and also there could be unusual variations in the cycles itself. However the policy ignoring all these crucial factors, offers only one leave per month, for women with longer cycles it might prove to be a privilege whereas for women with shorter cycles it would be inadequate.
- Another challenge for the policy is that there is no criteria for employers to know when the mensuration cycle of women begins. Also quite often women themselves may not perfectly aware of the beginning of her cycle, it could begin within the office premises as well. All these factors shows that despite a simplistic approach of offering a paid leave as per choices, it may not serve its purpose of promoting efficiency, as women may purposely not take the leave on the first day of her cycle and many a time they may not even perfectly aware of the beginning of cycle.
Therefore all these factors proposes a serious challenge to this policy and thus clearly shows that if this is implemented as a national policy this may not serve its purpose i.e, increase in efficiency and friendly working environment for women.
Expected Consequences of The Policy.
Since the Cultural Machine declared this policy, there seems to be growing demand to implement it at a national level, without proper critical analysis. Note that even if the policy is introduced at national level it will only be limited to formal sector and just like all other employees benefit schemes it will most likely to remain beyond the reach of women in informal sector which consists almost 90 per cent of total female workforce. Another noticeable fact that, it is mostly the small-scale industries which are labor oriented as thus provide majority of the employment in India. Even though it might not be a matter of concern for large-scale industries but it will significantly affect the small scale industries.
At this scenario for a labor oriented and low per capita income country like India, along with various existing liberal employment benefit schemes such as a long period of maternity leave which is par with developed countries, another policy may not proved to be suitable for employment opportunities of women. In other words more liberal approach towards (female) employees in a low skilled and labor surplus country, may make it less convenient for employers to hire more labors or undertake a long-term employment contract. Consequently women may have to face more obstacles while getting employment in formal sector and thus will promote informalization of workforce particularly women in this case. Therefore if the policy is implemented nation wide, it most likely to benefit few at the cost of others.
Despite the challenges and cost of the proposed policy, there could be other ways of implementation which may proved to be more beneficial to both workers and employers without harming the employment opportunities.
- Changing the measuring scale : Contribution of employees in India are measured in terms of number of days they spend in work place. This measuring unit is highly inflexible, inadequate and inefficient as a female employee despite spending comparatively less number of days in work place may contribute more than a male worker. Therefore there is an immediate need to change the measuring scale for contribution of labor. Alternatively employees can be evaluated in terms of working hours per week or per month, in this case both male as well as female workers could avail themselves an extra leave by extending their working hours only up to 30 minutes. Thus a more gender neutral approach without any significant loss.
- Collective Responsibility : Instead of providing an extra paid leave as a right to each individual, it could be provided through a collective approach. An extra paid leave should be provided when some other employee(s) willing to act as a substitute for them. This will only benefit both male and female employees but also helps to build up more social and responsible environment in the workplace.
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