SNP backing of paid leave for those with extreme menstrual symptoms is sign of Scotland's potential – Laura Waddell

The SNP party conference passed a resolution backing paid leave for people with extreme menstrual symptoms (Picture: Joe Giddens/PA Wire)The SNP party conference passed a resolution backing paid leave for people with extreme menstrual symptoms (Picture: Joe Giddens/PA Wire)
The SNP party conference passed a resolution backing paid leave for people with extreme menstrual symptoms (Picture: Joe Giddens/PA Wire)
How rare it is to read the news these days and see something inspiring.

Congratulations are due to Anum Qaisar, the MP for Airdrie and Shotts, whose feminist resolution was passed at the just-been SNP conference. It adheres the party to policy where extreme menstrual symptoms, whether physical, or, I was very pleased to see stated specifically, mental, will be grounds for paid leave from work.

The catch? Sick leave being a reserved matter, this would only come into play in an independent Scotland. But Qaisar is also campaigning at Westminster for the UK Government to commit to the same policy.

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It would be a significant win for worker’s rights and for feminism. Will the same compassion, progressive thinking, and commitment to gender equality exist in those chambers? We shall see. Good luck to her.

Unusually difficult menstruation can have various causes, including the painful condition of endometriosis. In this column I’ve previously documented my own experiences with premenstrual dysphoric disorder or PMDD, an extreme form of PMS which manifests as exhausting, distressing, bleak depression a few days ahead of the arrival of my period.

It’s still under recognised, as anything related to mental health or filed dustily under “women’s issues” tends to be. Stress makes it worse. It’s a lot easier to deal with – and recover from afterwards – by bunkering down at home for a day or two.

Culturally, we’re so used to being expected to push through menstrual pain, to run ourselves ragged working while unwell with it, and to suffer in silence and shame, that a major political party pushing forward the compassionate, progressive standard of paid menstrual leave comes as a happy surprise.

As Qaisar said at the conference, “not only do we need radical policy reform to help those affected, but to change the societal norm of working through severe pain”.

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Online reaction, while mixed, is generally positive. Some are alert and resistant to the idea of any perceived advantage for women in the workplace; they complain it’s not fair on men, that the system might be abused by those who just want extra time off.

But lads, nobody is stopping you from phoning your boss in the morning and telling them you have diarrhoea when you actually just fancy a duvet-and-Xbox day, yet you’re still rightly entitled to sick leave.

Rights, humane legislation and workplace adjustments are not withheld from those who benefit from them on the basis a minority just might take advantage. Although some try just this: see the demonisation of welfare recipients in the run-up to austerity.

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I suspect some resistance is from those who, because they cannot see it, haven’t quite fully accepted that disruptive menstrual pain is real.

For those who suffer, it’s certainly not a holiday. Coping with pain is not a fun ‘extra day off’. As for those who speak with such bitter, narrowed-eyed suspicion of women, they’d be raging whatever happened in our favour.

I’m proud of a Scotland leading the way internationally on free period products. This could be one more string to our bow. It’s the kind of policy that gives Scotland such great potential as a contemporary progressive small nation, with compassionate legislation focused on the well-being of citizens, cognisant of the requirements of individuals to partake and flourish in society.



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