A great move or unnecessary leniency?
I, Varsha Karmakar, joined SmartQ on 17th of February, 2020 as a Relationship Manager and Sheethal, my HR was briefing about the company on my first day, the vision & mission, other required details, and various other policies, etc. Trust me, the induction process can get long at times, but what actually grabbed my attention was when she suddenly mentioned something about leaves, period leaves!
FOP??? Is that a leave the HR is talking about? A leave ‘only’ for women to rest or work from home without having to struggle with the excruciating pain and the fear of staining?
Wow! This is something new!!! Oh no, there are men in the room whom I don't even know! Are they feeling awkward? Or am I thinking a little too much?
My lower abdomen started churning all of a sudden and then it hit me that my dates are due today. Obviously, I wouldn't take a leave on my 2nd day of joining a new company, especially an FOP!
Since I had to be at a client's location from the next day onwards, I somehow dragged myself out of the bed, and honestly speaking, I had reached the client’s place some 10 minutes late as was decided over the call with my reporting manager.
I looked pale, sleep-deprived, messy, low on energy, not one of my best days obviously, the kohl and the lipstick wasn’t sufficient to veil off the tiredness that reflected on my face, and no sooner did I reached the location, my manager looked up and said, “You look sick Varsha! Didn’t you get to sleep?”
“No, I’m fine, just down with chums”
What he said next was something that not only made me get a little more comfortably comfortable but also broke the ice and the awkwardness, “You should have applied for an FOP. You know about it right?”
And from that day onwards, till today I have been boasting to people about SmartQ’s Policy of FOP and wanted to spread the word across all corners of the corporate world, just then when I was asked by Bhaskar to prepare a blog on the First Day of Periods Leave!
Periods @ Workplace
There is a dire need to talk about periods in the workplace because working women spend most of their time in offices and the menstrual clock does not work in parity with the working hours.
It is important to talk about periods and educate oneself about menstruation and the baggage that it brings along with itself every month.
It is required to talk about periods because there is an urgency for all the employees of the office to understand the biological difference between a man and a woman and what periods can actually do.
It is crucial to talk about periods because no female employee would simply want to stay back at home and refrain from taking on work responsibilities.
It is critical to talk about menstruation because period-shaming and gossip in and around the office are not only embarrassing but harassing as well.
It is vital to talk about menstruation because PMS is actually not a fancy word.
It is essential to talk about periods because menstruating women are not a disadvantage to the workplace environment.
It is significant to talk about periods because if you don't, then her next organization definitely would!
Getting periods at work can be a dreadful, troublesome, and risky affair, both physically and emotionally. The conservative nature of the society easily attracts several eyes on the female employee while she gets up a little too carefully or stealthily, while on her periods and a topic which is considered a social stigma for a healthy open discussion, all of a sudden becomes a mild and harsh mockery while she covers her sanitary napkin in between purse and handkerchief and heads towards the washroom!
What is an FOP Leave?
Though periods are quite a normal monthly phenomenon for women, there is still an uneasiness and a taboo that works in the minds of both, the male and the female employees.
And many organizations have slowly and gradually not only realized but also accepted and educated themselves on the facts about menstruation and the intensity of its symptoms.
Hence, the birth of an FOP or First day of Periods Leave came into existence, with an aim to keep the female employees a little stress-free at home without having to deal with both work and the unavoidable immense abdominal cramps and unreasonably poignant horrible mood swings.
Culture Machine and Gozoop, both Mumbai-based media companies, were the first organizations in India to have introduced the importance and need for an FOP leave for women in 2017.
This came not only as a blessing to the female employees but also acted as a step forward in empowering women. HRs and managers have agreed that an FOP leave makes a female employee more productive while on her periods, she not only loses concentration and focus but her mind critically wanders from between screen and stains.
Devleena S. Majumder, President of Human Resources at Culture Machine, said, “What we have recently introduced in our organization is not just a policy but a gesture of support for all our women employees.”
FOP in SmartQ
In a male-dominated society, especially in the workplace, SmartQ too had a handful of female employees, with the numbers not exceeding more than 6-7, and the formulation of such a female-centric policy was a challenge.
Sushmita, the HR Manager of SmartQ envisioned the need for this leave, for her fellow female employees because cramps and dizziness, along with terrible back pain, followed by nausea was something that everybody including her had to undergo every month, and the truth is spoken, there still remains a great deal of concealment and shame in understanding the natural concerns associated with womanhood.
Having researched, discussed, analyzed, proposed, and activated the idea of FOP in the organization. She also made sure that the education and knowledge about the specific leave should be given not only to the female joiners but also the male hires too, because SmartQ has always been a company that puts employees’ safety, well-being, happiness, and satisfaction as its top priority.
When she was questioned by the management before bringing this new leave policy into action in 2018, as to whether there could be any misuse of this certain leave or not, she had quoted a very beautiful line which said, “I wish to believe that my colleagues wouldn’t misuse it, because SmartQ being our second family, we work here out of love and because it is our responsibility.”
And it was from November 2018 that the CEO of SmartQ, Krishna Wage included FOP leaves for the women of the organization every month, and the male employees not only handled it with utter maturity but also understood and accepted it with a broader mindset that menstruation is an experience of pain which is never quantifiable!
There would be several arguments on the period leave policy because many wish and want to believe that it comes as an undue advantage to women and strictly against gender equality. But what needs to be understood is that both men and women are physically different and gender equality has got nothing to do with it.
And the real progression would begin when we would not only understand but also honor these differences.
Companies who haven’t yet thought of introducing the leave policy in their organization should put in a thought of having it included since many studies and data have shown that women during menstruation become less productive and cannot invest as much attention and concentration as they can during the other days. Hence, an FOP leave would not only help them rest and take care of themselves and their body during menstruation, but also prevent them from having to bear the pain of cramps along with the tension of staining, or get period-shamed or talked about or discussed in the office.
Meanwhile, companies should also focus and work on stocking sanitary napkins or tampons and other period essential kits like hot water bags, energy drinks, doctor prescribed vitamin capsules, cushions, etc to ease them with the tormenting unbearable pain that would help them stay a little calmer and relaxed, because
MENSTRUATION IS SIMPLY NOT A CHOICE!
So, when are you introducing FOP in your Organization?
Join us in the league and let’s make the corporate workplace a better and a little considerate environment for the female employees!