On any given day, an estimated 800-plus million girls, women, and transgender folks will be having their periods. But the number of people who menstruate who are comfortable explaining to their coworkers what's happening with their uterine linings—or explaining why they feel less-than-great for several days every month—is undoubtedly way less than 800 million.
Zomato, the massive Indian food delivery startup, is taking a big step to destigmatize menstruation, and to make its 5,000-person workforce feel more comfortable taking time off during their monthly menstrual cycles. On Saturday, Zomato's founder and CEO Deepinder Goya announced that anyone in the company who menstruates is eligible for up to 10 days of paid 'period leave' every year.
"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," Goya wrote on the company's blog. "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"
Goya also added a P.S. to the men in the company who might scrunch their faces and express their displeasure at having to hear someone speak the words "I'm having my period" out loud: "This is a part of life, and while we don’t fully understand what women go through, we need to trust them when they say they need to rest this out," he wrote. "I know that menstrual cramps are very painful for a lot of women—and we have to support them through it if we want to build a truly collaborative culture at Zomato."
Although Zomato isn't the first company in India to offer paid period leave, CNN reports that it is "the most high profile." Gozoop, a digital communications agency, implemented its own menstrual leave policy in 2017, allowing employees dealing with their period to work from home one day every month.
"The thought behind this policy is that a woman needs to rest her body while on her period, so she has the facility to work from her comfort zone," Bansi Raja, the company's 'Chief Happiness Officer,' explained in 2018. "We take away the stress of travel, crowded environments, uncomfortable chairs, fear of stains, etc. which will enable women to complete work in an efficient and effective manner from home."
According to "Addressing Menstruation in the Workplace: The Menstrual Leave Debate," a half-dozen countries have implemented period leave policies, which range from two days per month in Indonesia, to one day every month in Zambia (which is known as "Mother's Day), to a single day for women who work in Mexico's federal court system.
Zomato did not explain how it arrived at that '10 days per year' number—VICE has reached out to the company for further clarification, but has not yet received a response—but it does track with some self-reported data that women who menstruate have previously shared regarding their monthly cycles. In 2017, scientists in the Netherlands surveyed 32,748 women between the ages of 15 and 45, and specifically asked them about how their periods affected their productivity in the workplace. In total, almost 14 percent of respondents (4,514 women) reported missing work due to period-related issues, while just over 80 percent (26,438) reported feeling less-than-functional if they "pushed through" and tried to work.
In total, the researchers estimated that these employees lost roughly 8.9 days' worth of productivity every year due to menstruation-related presenteeism. (And, perhaps just as importantly, only 20 percent of the women surveyed told their employers that they were taking off because of period cramps or other associated symptoms).
There is a growing message that people who menstruate shouldn't have to be ashamed of their own bodily functions. And that makes it all the more likely that other companies, in more industries, in more countries, could follow Zomato's lead.