How do you ask for period leave?

Getting your period can often come with painful cramps, headaches, nausea, and other unpleasant symptoms that can make it difficult to focus at work. Many companies now offer period leave or menstrual leave policies that allow employees who menstruate to take 1-2 days off per month without using their regular sick or vacation days. This ensures menstrual symptoms are recognized as a valid health concern. If your company doesn’t have an official policy, you can still ask for time off or accommodations when you get your period. Here’s how to go about requesting period leave.

Know Your Company’s Policies

Before asking for period leave, check if your company already has a menstrual leave policy in place. Some companies offer 1-2 paid “period days” per month that employees can use when experiencing severe period symptoms. Others may allow sick days or paid time off to be used for period-related purposes. Look on your company’s internal site, handbook, or ask HR if a menstrual leave policy exists. If your company offers flexible paid time off (PTO) instead of set sick/vacation days, those can likely be used for period leave as needed.

If no policy exists, some companies may still be open to making accommodations on a case-by-case basis. Don’t be afraid to ask! Many modern and female-led companies recognize that periods can negatively impact work and are willing to have conversations around menstrual leave.

Have an Open Conversation

The best approach is to have an open and understanding conversation with your manager or HR rep. Explain that you frequently experience difficult menstrual symptoms like extreme pain, nausea, dizziness etc. and would occasionally need 1-2 days per month to recover at home. Provide as much detail as you feel comfortable sharing – this will help them understand your situation better.

Emphasize that you’re committed to getting your work done, but that your symptoms sometimes make it impossible to focus or be productive. Having established leave days each month will allow you to rest and recover so that you can return and perform at your best.

Go into the conversation with a positive attitude. Many employers have never had this issue brought up before and may need some education around period leave. Try to give them the benefit of the doubt.

Suggest Solutions

Going into the conversation with some solutions in mind can make your manager more receptive and demonstrate that you’re willing to find a compromise. Rather than just asking for time off each month, suggest things like:

  • Working from home on your heaviest flow days
  • Flexible or modified hours on painful days
  • Using sick days or PTO for period leave
  • Making up the time by coming in early/staying late on other days

Think creatively about what might help you stay productive while still getting the rest you need. Being prepared with actionable suggestions makes it easier for your employer to say yes.

Get a Doctor’s Note

Having a doctor confirm your debilitating menstrual symptoms with a note can lend credibility to your request. Ask your gynecologist to write a letter stating that you experience severe cramping, nausea, migraines etc. for 1-2 days per month and recommending 1-2 menstrual leave days per month. This makes it clear that your request is medically justified.

Provide the note to HR/your manager when you have the conversation around period leave. A doctor validating your experience and advising leave can be hard to ignore or deny.

Propose a Trial Period

If your employer seems hesitant, propose doing a trial period of say, 3 months, where you’re allowed 1-2 days of menstrual leave per month. This gives them a chance to see that it doesn’t negatively impact your work or ability to complete tasks. Track your productivity during these months so you have data to show you’re still performing well.

A trial takes away the permanence that may make some employers nervous. Once they see it works out, they’ll likely grant an ongoing allowance.

Frame it as “Menstrual Leave”

Using the term “menstrual leave” or “period leave” rather than just asking for “sick days” or “time off” helps establish that this is specifically to accommodate period symptoms. It signals that you’re not just trying to skip work or get extra days off.

HR has likely dealt with menstrual leave requests in the past, so this terminology makes it clear what you’re asking for and why.

Highlight Benefits for the Company

Explain how allowing period leave can actually benefit your workplace. Some upsides for employers include:

  • Higher employee retention – women appreciate having their needs met
  • Increased loyalty and morale – makes employees feel valued
  • Less turnover from burnout/unmet needs
  • Boosts diversity – attracts more female applicants
  • Positive PR as a progressive employer

Framing it this way helps convince your boss this is good for the whole company, not just you.

Use Email if Uncomfortable

If the thought of talking to your boss in person makes you cringe, it’s perfectly acceptable to make the request over email. This gives you time to draft your thoughts and provides documentation of the ask. Follow up a day or two later in person to check if they got your email and see if they have any other questions.

Consider Legal Protections

Some locations prohibit discrimination against employees for pregnancy- or menstrual-related reasons and require employers to provide reasonable accommodations. Do some research to see if legal protections exist in your city, state, or country and mention these in your request if applicable.

For example, mentions laws like FMLA, ADA, Title VII, state pregnancy accommodation laws, etc. if relevant.

Suggest Working From Home

If your role allows it, suggest working from home on your heaviest flow days or when cramps are bad. This allows you to be productive while still taking it easy at home. Offer to be available for virtual meetings, phone calls, emails etc. as normal.

Remote work ensures you don’t need to take full days off yet can work in pajamas and take breaks as needed. It’s often an easier sell than asking for multiple days of leave.

Enlist Your Doctor’s Help

Ask your gynecologist to send a note to your employer explaining your need for menstrual leave accommodations. Most doctors are happy to write letters validating patient conditions and requesting workplace accommodations needed for medical reasons.

A doctor’s opinion carries more weight than an employee request alone. HR will find it hard to deny if your physician medically advises it.

Offer to Make Up Missed Time

Assure your boss that you’re committed to making up any time you miss for menstrual leave. Offer to come in early, stay late, or work extra hours when you’re feeling better to account for the time off.

Knowing you’ll make up missed work can reassure managers that nothing will fall through the cracks in your absence.

Set Expectations

Be clear with your manager about what they can expect from you in terms of frequency of leave needed, communication, productivity etc. Offer to confirm each month the specific days you’ll be out. Assure them you’ll provide plenty of notice and give reminders as the dates approach.

Setting clear expectations upfront provides certainty and makes the process smooth for everyone.

Keep Track of Your Experience

Keep notes each month on your symptoms, how they impacted your work, and how the menstrual leave helped your productivity once you returned. After a few months, compile this into data you can show your employer to validate the need for ongoing accommodations.

Concrete tracking proves this isn’t just a vague complaint and demonstrates how you’ve been using the time effectively.

Leverage Other Existing Policies

Check to see if your company has policies allowing remote work, flexible schedules, or use of sick days for doctor appointments. Though not menstrual leave per se, these could potentially be used to accommodate period symptoms in lieu of an official policy.

Frame your request as wanting to utilize existing options rather than asking for special treatment.

Partner with HR

HR reps are trained on policies around medical leave, discrimination, reasonable accommodations, and diversity. They may be an ally when making your case to senior leadership.

Discuss your need with HR first and enlist their help making a formal proposal to management. Their expertise lends credibility.

Propose It as a Formal Policy

Rather than just asking for yourself informally, propose that your company adopt an official menstrual leave policy. Outline suggestions for days allowed, whether it would be paid or unpaid, if a doctor’s note would be required, etc.

Framing it as an inclusive company policy makes it feel less like an individual demand.

Get Coworkers On Board

Ask sympathetic coworkers (especially women) to lobby management alongside you in requesting a menstrual leave policy. Or if they also experience period difficulties, encourage them to request accommodations themselves.

Showing multiple employees want this policy amplifies the need and makes it harder to write off.

Ask Peers at Other Companies

Connect with friends who work at other companies and ask if their employers offer period leave. If they do, find out details on how it’s structured.

You can use positive examples to show your boss that competitors/industry peers offer this policy and that you’re not asking for anything unusual.

Propose a Policy to Management

Draft a proposed menstrual leave policy yourself and present it to management. Include details like how many days allowed per month, whether a doctor’s note is required, if it would be paid or unpaid leave etc.

Coming prepared with a fleshed out policy makes it easy for them to say yes.

Find Company Allies

Talk to supportive coworkers and enlist their help advocating for a menstrual leave policy to management. Getting both women AND men on board strengthens the case.

Knowing employees across the company want this makes it harder for execs to dismiss.

Consider the Timing

Think about timing your request when leadership may be most receptive – like after the company has promoted diversity and inclusion, during women’s health awareness months, or when female leadership are involved.

Look for opportunities when positive PR from adopting a menstrual leave policy could benefit the company.

Get Creative with Leave Usage

If you can’t get full menstrual leave approved, get creative with using existing leave intermittently. For example, take 4 hours in the morning of your heaviest flow day and 4 hours in the afternoon of your worst cramp day.

Piecemealing together time from vacation/sick days may provide the flexibility you need.

Make it Standard for All Employees

Rather than singling out women, propose that period leave be couched as “wellness leave” or “health leave” that all employees can use as desired for health concerns like migraines, digestive issues, chronic pain etc.

Offering it as gender neutral makes it apply more broadly.

Focus on Boosting Productivity

Emphasize that allowing menstrual leave will ultimately boost productivity by ensuring you come to work focused every day. Make clear that you’re not asking for “extra” time off but rather the ability to rest when medically necessary.

Framing it as making you a better employee resonates with managers.

Thank Them for Considering

However the conversation goes, thank your employer for being willing to have a dialogue and hear your request. Even if unsuccessful this time, your feedback may inform future policies down the line.

Remaining gracious and professional leaves the door open for future talks.

Offer Options Other Than Full Days Off

If employers resist giving full menstrual leave days, offer compromises like letting you set a flexible schedule, work from home part of the day or reduce meeting load on hard days.

Giving options shows you’re willing to problem solve to find a solution that works for both sides.

Keep Your Request Simple and Brief

When talking to managers, keep your ask direct and to the point. For example “Because I have difficult period symptoms, I’d like to request 2 flex days per month to work from home. I’m happy to make up the time by taking shorter lunches the rest of the month.”

Being succinct and specific without over explaining gives clear parameters.

Discuss it During Your Review

Schedule time during your annual or quarterly review to discuss menstrual leave, even briefly. This makes it part of the official record for your role.

When managers know it will come up regularly, they’re more likely to address it.

Look at the Family Medical Leave Act

If your employer is covered by FMLA, severe menstrual issues may qualify as a chronic health condition. This would allow you to take unpaid, protected time off monthly.

FMLA offers Job protection your employer can’t ignore if you qualify.

Propose Working Through Lunch

Offer to work through lunch breaks when you’re feeling well to make up time taken when you have your period.

Trading an hour lunch for leaving an hour early on high pain days maintains your hours.

Suggest Policy Improvements

If your employer already offers period leave or wellness days, suggest ways to expand or improve the policy. Recommend additional allowed days, flexibility on how time can be taken, or automated tracking systems.

Offering constructive feedback shows you just want to enhance existing options.


Asking for period leave at work can seem daunting, but being prepared with thoughtful arguments and possible compromises can help make your case. Emphasize how accommodating your needs will ultimately allow you to be happier, healthier and more productive. With persistence and courage, more employers are beginning to recognize that period leave is a reasonable and necessary option for their employees.

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