BY: Michelle Liew
In this day and age, menstrual leave is a taboo that is slowly coming out of its shell to the centre of policymaking. While most firms are reluctant in imposing lesser working hours, some firms believe that productivity is not measured by time and have started to impose more leave days.
This sustainable furniture-making company in Sabah, ‘Brutti & Besi’ has become one of the pioneering modern companies to introduce paid menstrual leave for its employees.
Women employees at Brutti & Besi are entitled to take a day off for period pain every month with no questions asked.
Founder Lukman Awaluddin, 29, who established the company in October 2020 expressed that the step was taken so that he could instil a culture of trust and acceptance at work. This also helps destigmatise the misconceptions surrounding menstruation.
"This menstrual leave policy allows women employees to take time off work without being stigmatised, having to make up excuses or feigning sickness,” said Lukman to New Straits Time.
"Our goal is to foster trust among employees to make the workplace more productive, efficient, and creative.
"Besides, women should not be ashamed or stigmatised when applying for period leave. Employees should feel comfortable informing their employers that they are on menstrual leave. Why the need to feel embarrassed of having periods, a critical biological function?"
The issue regarding menstrual leave has been a constant debate in Malaysia and many have voiced out their support for the implementation of such policy.
The inspiration for such policy was drawn from his wife, Siti Faznur Abd Khaleq, 33, who is also his business partner. She had been suffering from severe menstrual cramps for years, which she claims it was 'normal'.
"At one point, the pain was excruciating that she could hardly carry on with day-to-day tasks. We immediately sought medical advice.
"It was then we learned that she had uterine fibroid about 10cm in diameter. She really underestimated the pain that she had before. Thankfully, the procedure ended well and we had the fibroid removed and Siti is feeling much better now."
It was also around the same time, a new employee, Dg Nuriah Anis Abd Majid, 23, contacted him seeking permission to take medical leave.
"We (my wife and I) just told her to go on unrecorded leave but from the conversations we had with Siti's female friends and her gynaecologist, we learned that many women are actually suffering from menstrual pain albeit at a varying degree of pain.
"As we discussed with the doctor and nurses during my wife's one week stay in the hospital ward, we began to see menstrual cramps as an actual problem that many people overlook.
"Of course, we didn't blindly jump into this (menstrual leave policy). My wife and I thoroughly researched it and studied the various period leave policies implemented in other countries and organisations."
Lukman stated that friends, including a friend from the cocoa manufacturing business in Sabah, had approached him about menstrual leave.
"We hope to inspire others. I will encourage more companies to take this (menstrual leave policy) on as a pilot project to gather more data and so that we have better mechanisms for its implementation.
"Perhaps then, the government can adopt it into national policy. It is not an overnight decision. It must start from businesses; people should understand menstrual disorders and normalise period talks."