Sikkim High Court Introduces Menstrual Leave Policy For Women Employees

The country’s Smallest High Court has taken one of the most significant steps in favor of employee well-being and creating a more inclusive work environment. In a first-of-its-kind move, the Sikkim High Court has granted menstrual leave to its women employees.

In a notice issued on May 27 announcing the menstrual leave policy, the Court specified that women staff members can avail “2-3 days of menstrual leave” each month. “This leave will not be counted against the employee’s overall leave account,” it stated. However, this leave would only be granted with a prior recommendation of the High Court medical officer.

The Sikkim High Court is the first ever in India to introduce a menstrual leave policy. The Court that only comprises of three judges and nine officers in the registry, has come forward to set an example for other government bodies.

In India, the topic of menstrual has been largely debated and still stays in a grey zone for many organizations. In February 2023, the Supreme Court of India declined a plea seeking menstrual leave for female students and employees in India. The Court had stated that such matters fall within the domain of policy and with judicial authority.  It further recommended the petitioner to file a representation with the Union Ministry of Women and Child Development.

Surely, we all remember Union Women and Child Development Minister Smriti Irani’s famously infamous stand regarding the paid menstrual leave policy from December 2023. While responding to a question in the Rajya Sabha by MP Manoj Kumar Jha on paid menstrual leave, Smriti Irani opposed the idea. She stated that menstruation is a natural part of life and should not be treated as a handicap that requires special provisions.

Smriti Irani said, “As a menstruating woman, menstruation and the menstruation cycle is not a handicap, it’s a natural part of women’s life journey.” She further added that such a policy could lead to further discrimination against women at workplace. “We should not propose issues where women are denied equal opportunities just because somebody who does not menstruate has a particular viewpoint towards menstruation,” she added. Her statements and stand drew a lot of flak and discussions across society.

What is your take on this step taken by the Sikkim High Court? Do you feel we should have a more central-level framework regarding the period leave policy in the country?

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