Research Findings May Boost Women’s Rights to Menstrual Leave

Ms Annalise Thulapersad
LLM in Labour Law graduate, Ms Annalise Thulapersad.

Ms Annalise Thulapersad, who graduated with a Master’s degree in Labour Law, says her research findings into the right to take menstrual leave have the potential to reshape workplace policies and women’s rights in South Africa.

Her research titled – A Critical Inquiry into the Recognition of the Right to Menstrual Leave in South Africa – is a topic that holds significant importance for women across the country who have been silently grappling with the absence of provisions for menstrual leave in labour laws.

‘Currently, there is an absence of a provision for menstrual leave in South Africa’s labour law framework,’ said Thulapersad. ‘Women are thus forced to apply for sick leave if they are unable to attend work due to menstrual pain and discomfort. However, menstruation is not equivalent to an illness. Equally, there are practical difficulties associated with applying for sick leave in such instances.’

In her thesis, Thulapersad examines various aspects of implementing menstrual leave policies, such as determining whether it should be paid or unpaid, specifying the number of days allocated for menstrual leave, and considering the need for medical documentation. She also explores eligibility criteria for applying for menstrual leave and contemplates potential penalties for non-compliance with the policy.

One of the most noteworthy aspects of Thulapersad’s research is the array of recommendations she has formulated. ‘I devised a slate of recommendations for South Africa and relevant stakeholders such as employers, trade unions and civil society to build the kind of pressure required to enact appropriate policy reform in reference to the provision of menstrual leave, including strategic litigation,’ she said.

Her study concludes that South Africa’s failure to enact a provision for menstrual leave constitutes a violation of women’s rights to equality, sexual and reproductive health, a safe and healthy working environment, and economic participation.

Asked about her future plans, Thulapersad said she plans on doing a PhD to further hone her research skills and advocate for human rights. ‘I want to pursue a career involving human rights in which I can ensure that the constitutional rights of disadvantaged and vulnerable groups are promoted and fulfilled,’ she said.

Her supervisor, Dr Janine Hicks, said she was proud of Thulapersad’s achievement. ‘Her research on sexual and reproductive health rights within the context of the workplace, and her motivation for recognition in terms of Labour Law provisions have made an invaluable contribution, which could result in law reform in this sector.’

Words: Samukelisiwe Cele

Photograph: Supplied

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