‘We want to normalise the processes women’s bodies go through’
A super fund has introduced a menstrual and menopause leave policy for employees in a bid to destigmatise the experiences of women. Staff at Future Super will be able to take up to six days of leave a year if they’re struggling to manage their symptoms, meaning they no longer have to dip into their sick leave allowance.
The policy guidelines also allow employees to work in a way that may help alleviate symptoms, whether working from home or in a quiet space in the office. But beyond giving staff the necessary mechanism to manage their pain or discomfort, the policy aims to remove the stigma or taboo about periods and menopause.
Leigh Dunlop, chief operating officer at Future Super, said it was unfair for female employees to have to use their sick leave or holiday allowance to cope with symptoms.
“The fact of the matter is women bleed regularly. 50% of the world’s population menstruate and 50% of our employees at Future Super are women,” she told HRD.
“At Future Super we want to normalise the processes women’s bodies go through. That means removing the shame and stigma associated with menstruating and the menopause to support our employees to do their best work.
“Fighting for a future free from inequality starts from fighting from equality within our workplace and we hope other companies take inspiration from this.”
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Future Super took guidance from the Victorian Women’s Trust, a Melbourne-based not-for-profit, in drafting its policy guidelines. The organisation provides templates and educational resources for educating businesses in how to best support female employees. The company introduced its own menstrual and menopause leave in 2017, introducing flexible options to support staff as well as 12 days’ leave allowance per year.
Around the world, a handful of countries have already legislated paid and unpaid menstrual leave. Indonesia offers female employees two days of paid leave a month, Taiwan offers three days a year, Zambia offers one per month, known as “Mother’s Day”, while Japan allows women to take time off but does not require that they be paid.
In 2017, Italy considered introducing a menstrual leave policy into the labour laws, but the motion failed to secure enough votes.
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Future Super hopes that by sharing its policy guidelines, as set out below, other companies may be inspired to follow suit.
- These Guidelines are designed to provide opportunities for restful working circumstances and self-care for employees experiencing symptoms of menstruation and menopause.
- These Guidelines are designed to be flexible depending on the employee’s needs, providing for the following options:
- The possibility of working from home;
- The opportunity to stay in the workplace under circumstances which encourage the comfort of the employee e.g. resting in a quiet area; or
- The possibility of taking paid leave.
- In the case of paid leave, employees are entitled to a maximum of up to 6 paid days per calendar year in the event of inability to perform work duties because of menstruation and menopause, and their associated symptoms.
- A medical certificate is not required.
- As with personal leave, unused menstrual and menopause leave balance will not be paid out upon an employee’s departure from Future Super.