A few weeks ago, we asked you to share your thoughts on whether companies in Malaysia should provide menstrual benefits to their employees.
Some of the menstrual benefits include providing:
- Menstrual leaves (specifically for menstrual leaves and is separate from medical leaves)
- The option for flexible working (e.g. work from home, flexible working hours, etc.)
- Free menstrual-related products (e.g. menstrual pads, heat packs, painkillers, etc.)
- Short breaks during work and a comfortable space for rest and relaxation
And many of you came through!
Both male and female adults, from 18 to up to retirement, shared your opinions with us.
So, do Malaysians actually want companies to provide menstrual benefits?
For the most part, yes
In a pretty modest country like Malaysia, it’s not surprising that the opinions are a little divided.
After all, menstruation is still a hush-hush subject in most circles, and some would prefer it remain that way.
That said, our public survey found that 88.9% of respondents agree that companies in Malaysia should provide menstrual benefits.
Malaysians who are for companies providing menstrual benefits
Their reasonings mainly cite that menstruation and its symptoms are health-related conditions. Many pointed out that menstruating doesn’t happen by choice, rather, it is a natural occurrence.
Some menstruating individuals can experience debilitating period pain. This is a medical condition called dysmenorrhea, where individuals also experience other symptoms like diarrhoea, nausea, and vomiting.
This tallies with the findings of a Malaysian study in 2022, which discovered that the prevalence of premenstrual syndrome and dysmenorrhea exceeded 70%. Not to mention, there are a number of individuals with PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome) or endometriosis too.
One of the respondents shared their own menstrual issues, saying, “I had experience being unable to walk after getting down from the train, due to menstrual cramps spreading to my thighs. The RapidKL staff had to put me on a wheelchair.”
Plus, not everyone works at an office-slash-desk job, where the overall day-to-day risks of work are lower. Another respondent pointed out, “It’s potentially dangerous to ask someone who is in pain to push through and work, especially if their work requires them to handle machines.”
For those who answered that yes, Malaysian companies should provide menstrual benefits, we also asked what kinds of benefits they would prefer from the list we provided.
Interestingly, the majority of respondents actually preferred the option for flexible working (88.9%) compared to outright paid menstrual leaves (68.5%).
Some factors that could play into this include wanting to remain accountable for workplace responsibilities.
Several respondents pointed out that it will not always be possible to pre-plan their menstrual leaves and would prefer not to make sudden changes to their work schedule, which could affect team performance.
The second majority take is that companies should allow short breaks during work and provide a comfortable space for rest and relaxation (75%). Following that is the preference for companies to provide free menstrual-related products (61.1%).
Malaysians who are against companies providing menstrual benefits
That said, our public survey found that 11.1% of respondents believe that companies in Malaysia should not provide menstrual benefits.
It’s not an “anti-feminism” stance, but rather one rooted in logical concerns.
For example, there is the possibility of people abusing these menstrual benefits, particularly menstrual leaves and the option to work from home. It could be that the requesting employee is not even on their period, or maybe their pain is not that severe.
This is further exacerbated by the fact that individuals are typically not required to present medical proof of their menstrual issues when applying for such benefits.
However, a respondent pointed out that it could also put employers in a bad light if they are doubtful of an employee misusing such benefits.
Another aspect to consider is the size of the business.
One respondent said that SMEs and micro businesses might not be able to afford such benefits. These smaller companies tend to have at most 50 employees, so manpower is limited.
Taking menstrual leaves as an example again, if someone were to abruptly take a day off, it could disrupt the production flow. Although, you could argue that it’s the same case as with existing medical leaves, so what would make menstrual leaves any different?
Another respondent said, “I think Malaysia has too many public holidays, and having too many leaves and holidays may affect the overall productivity and shorten the work week even more.”
Then there are those who are on the fence
A good number of responses said they agreed with providing menstrual benefits, but there are some details they’re not keen on.
For example, some of them believe that menstrual leaves should require an MC, “just like any other sickness”, to ensure it’s not misused.
Then there’s the more invasive idea of having extra workplace transparency by keeping records and tracking each employee’s menstruating cycle.
Others said that instead of adding a separate leave, it would be better to increase the number of medical leaves available. This is to avoid gender-based biases.
One respondent explained, “I think that instead of adding a separate menstrual leave, it’s more fair and practical to add more medical leaves. There are multiple reasons, such as companies would be most likely base menstrual leaves on gender, which sometimes may be over-generalising.”
They also added, “I would prefer to not let people know that I am taking leave for this reason (menstruation), especially if people can access [the company’s] leave system and see who’s on leave and why.”
However, a medical leave would entail a doctor’s visit for an MC. This is not the most economical option as not all companies provide medical coverage, and there is the possibility of biased judgement from medical practitioners.
One suggestion was to just park it under flexible benefits.
“Coming from a company size of more than 1,500 employees, it can get complicated in terms of revising the leave-policies for everyone in the long run, including the non-menstruating colleagues,” the respondent explained.
So should we, or should we not?
Having heard both sides of the argument, one thing clear is that Malaysians generally believe that companies providing menstrual benefits isn’t a bad thing.
However, it has to be done tactfully, otherwise issues may arise. From workplace performance to fairness between all employees, these concerns need to be addressed before such policies can be introduced.
While the majority found it fair for companies to offer menstrual benefits, a sizeable 15.74% of our respondents found it unfair (particularly menstrual leaves), and another 11.11% were on the fence.
Those who felt that menstrual benefits were an unfair arrangement suggested that non-menstruating employees should be given other company perks. For example, an increase in paid leaves, being allowed to have short breaks, and the option to work from home as well.
Another point to understand is that providing menstrual benefits requires a large amount of employer-employee trust. The foundation has to be there, or it won’t work out.
After all, as an employer, you’re choosing to believe that your employees won’t turn around and mistreat your kindness.
As another respondent (who leads his own company) said, “Work these days is not clocked by hours but output. We do what we can to create the best environment for better output.”
- Check out our review of sensitive skin pad brands in Malaysia here.