This Indian Company is Giving Women Paid Period Leave

Zomato is now giving 10 paid leave days a year.

Aug 21, 2020

(Fizkes / Shutterstock.com)

In a big win for women, one of India’s largest food delivery companies announced a new policy to give female or transgender employees who menstruate 10 days of period leave a year. This new policy was announced in early August, 2020 and has started a previously unlikely conversation.

Zomato, who bought out Uber’s food delivery service earlier in 2020, is the largest company in India to introduce period leave in a country where menstruation is a taboo topic, according to CNN, and rarely mentioned publicly.

The new policy was announced in an email to employees, that was later published as a company blog, by Zomato’s founder and CEO Deepinder Goyal.

He wrote: “How many times have you had to send a message to your team saying ‘unwell today – taking the day off’ and having to answer concerned questions about your health with a feeble ‘stomach upset / weakness etc.’ when you really wanted to say ‘on my period, terrible cramps – need a heating pad, some chocolate and a lot of green tea (or something stronger) so I’m taking the day off’?

“At Zomato, we want to foster a culture of trust, truth and acceptance. Starting today, all women (including transgender people) at Zomato can avail up to 10 days of period leaves in a year.”

Goyal encouraged his female employees to be open about taking period leave saying, “There shouldn't be any shame or stigma attached to applying for a period leave. You should feel free to tell people on internal groups, or emails that you are on your period leave for the day.”

Goyal also told his employees that they should speak up about being harassed or hearing distasteful comments about taking period leave and explained to male employees that this should not be uncomfortable for them.

That’s because the stigma of menstruation runs very deep in Indian culture. In fact, according to UNICEF, 71 percent of girls in India are never told about menstruation until they experience their first periods. That translates to many girls never being taught about safe hygiene practices according to CNN.

There is widespread discrimination against menstruating women in India where it is considered unclean and should remain hidden. This results in women being excluded from social and religious events as well as not being allowed to enter kitchens or temples and shrines.

In 2018, a supreme court ruling allowed women of menstruating age to enter the Lord Ayyappa Temple  in Sabarimala saying that religion could not be used to deny women the right to worship. Women from 10-50 had been banned from entering the temple due to “impurity”.

The announcement from Zomato was well received by women’s rights activists on social media as a move that was long overdue, said Aljazeera.

"Most women take pain killers and continue working. Some women find it extremely difficult to work during periods. This won’t take away from the hard-won space that women have gained," Lavanya Ballal, social media coordinator for the Indian National Congress party, tweeted.

Other women complained on social media that there should be 12 paid leaves and not 10 and that period leave will make it harder for women to find employment. This is a debate that will continue for some time but talking about menstruation is now out in the open and that is a big achievement.

"We are women and we have to accept and respect — and make society accept and respect — who we are, and what happens to us as women," Ranjana Kumari, the director of non-profit Centre for Social Research, which advocates for women's rights in India told CNN. "This is our body, and this is what happens to our body."

Kumari said that she would welcome legislation that would make period leave a national policy. That would be long-awaited news for Indian women. Hopefully more companies will follow in Zomato’s footsteps and implement period leave for their employees.

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BONNIE RIVA RAS, EDITOR & WRITER
Bonnie Riva Ras has dedicated her life to promoting social justice. She loves to write about empowering women, helping children, educational innovations, and advocating for the environment & sustainability.