Yesterday (October 11th 2016) marked the fifth year of the UN’s International Day of the Girl. To celebrate, South Korea joined other countries and collectively pledged almost $600 million in girls’ education. Canada not only renewed its commitment to promoting gender equality and rights, but the wife of Canada’s Prime Minister, Sophie Gregoire Trudeau, also launched her own Instagram account to “share the amazing journey [women] are on together”.
In light of these celebrations, I thought it would be an opportune moment to highlight a law that applies to South Korean women but not yet to Canadian women: menstrual leave. Since 2001, South Korean female employees have been entitled to take one unpaid day off each month for menstrual pain . However, the majority of female employees do not take this time off. Reasons vary from not wanting to burden other co-workers with their work to the social stigma, especially on how it may be perceived by male co-workers (for more information, read this article by the Korea Times).
While Canada has yet to introduce anything similar,the idea has been touched upon by the media. Not surprisingly, there have been mixed responses. Some see it as another step towards women rights, while others see it as a step back, undermining women’s competitiveness and abilities in the workplace.
Despite the divided opinion, menstrual leave is currently in place in many Asian countries like Japan, Taiwan and Indonesia. While not in force in UK, a British company, Coexist, has announced earlier this year that it would implement such policy for its female employees.
With the increasing awareness of women’s rights, it would be interesting to see if Canada or any Canadian companies would introduce menstrual leave further down the road. But for now, it remains as one of the many differences between South Korea and Canada.