Draft labor laws, which propose allowing menstrual leave for women, were introduced to the Shanxi provincial legislature yesterday, reports China Daily.
If approved, the new labor-protection regulations would grant female workers paid leave during their menstrual period. According to the draft regulations, the benefit would apply for female employees experiencing overly painful or heavy menstruation (known as dysmenorrhea or menorrhagia). Workers who could produce a certificate from a legal medical institute or hospital would then be entitled to a paid leave of absence of one or two days. The law would also protect menstruating female employees who spend more than four hours standing on their feet by mandating a compulsory rest period.
The concept of menstrual leave was advocated by Zhang Xiaomei, a female member of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Committee, at the “two sessions” in 2011. However, a number of issues with the proposed laws have been raised. There is concern that the policy necessarily involves a breach of female workers’ privacy, and that it would actually deter employers from hiring women in the first place—compounding the difficulty many women find in competing for jobs with men.
Chinese labor law for the protection of female workers was last amended in 2012. The reforms adjusted the scope of jobs that employers cannot assign to female employees during their menstrual periods, pregnancy or lactation; offered female employees 98 days of maternity leave for childbirth (up from 90 days); and allowed female employees to visit a doctor’s office for prenatal care during work time.
The discourse surrounding women’s workplace rights in China can at times make for some grim reading, with a 2013 survey into sexual harassment in Guangzhou revealing that one in sex female workers had left their job explicitly due to sexual harassment issues. Labor rights in general remain a serious issue in China, following a number of strikes in 2011 over extreme labor conditions and pay disputes.
By Liam Bourke