Paid menstrual leave provokes controversy in China

Updated: 2016-02-17 10:54


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Female workers in Central China's Anhui province will enjoy paid menstrual leave, following the example of their peers in neighboring Hubei province and South China's Hainan province. However, the practice has provoked widespread controversy, the Beijing News reported.

According to the Anhui provincial government, from March, female workers may take a paid menstrual leave for one or two days on production of a certificate from a legal medical institute or hospital.

However, the three sides concerned -- workers, employers and medical institutes -- all feel this is a difficult issue to handle properly.

Last year, an investigation was carried out in South China's Guangdong province when local authorities were considering menstrual leave. However, more than 20 percent of the investigated females were unwilling to take leave for various reasons, such as exposing their private affairs and causing delays in work.

Similar worries were felt by a female bank employee in Anhui, who said: "I will consider my work schedule first. There are penalties for those who fail to complete work tasks. I'm afraid my boss will be unhappy."

Employers also revealed a sense of pressure if they are required to grant paid menstrual leaves. A hotel manager in Beijing said that besides female workers' health, an employer also has to consider operational costs. Paid leave will add to the cost of a company, which will make employers hesitant to hire female workers in the future. Besides, it's difficult to judge if the employee is really sick or just cashing in on being a woman.

Li Yinhe, a renowned Chinese sociologist, suggested the authorities pay attention to the side effects of the policy if it causes tension between employers and employees.

As for doctors, there are also problems, because it's difficult to evaluate the degree of menstrual pain an individual woman might suffer. Tan Xianjie, a gynecologist of the Peking Union Medical College Hospital, said that, due to a lack of clear standards, the diagnosis of menstrual cramps is usually based on patient description, and only a handful of people would probably visit hospitals just to obtain a certificate for menstrual leave.

Making paid menstrual leave mandatory was first proposed by Zhang Xiaomei, a national political advisor and a member of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, during the political advisory body's national meeting in 2011. More than 85 percent of females were adversely affected by menstruation, and 78.5 percent of them didn't receive proper care during their periods, she argued.

Hainan and Hubei provincial governments issued regulations in 1993 and 2009 respectively, suggesting employers grant paid menstrual leave. However, according to a local newspaper, the policy was not effectively implemented in Hainan as it was not mandatory.