The Spanish government today approved a bill which grants paid ‘menstrual leave’ for women who suffer from severe period pain, in what would be a first in Europe.
The bill allows workers experiencing period pain to an unlimited amount of time off, with the state social security system – not employers – picking up the tab for the medical leave.
As with paid leave for other health reasons, a doctor must approve the temporary medical incapacity.
The proposed legislation must still be approved by parliament, with a vote not expected for months. But if the bill is passed, Spain will become the first Western country to give women ‘menstrual leave’.
Menstrual leave is currently offered only in a small number of countries across the globe, among them South Korea, Japan, Zambia and Indonesia – and none in Europe.
Under the reform package passed by Spain’s cabinet, schools will be required to provide sanitary products to girls and there will also be changes to the country’s abortion laws.
It will end the requirement for girls aged 16 and 17 to obtain parental consent before terminating a pregnancy and include measure to boost access to abortion at private hospitals.
It also includes paid leave for pregnant women from week 39 and guarantees the distribution of free menstrual products in public institutions such as schools and health centres.
The draft law also states that surrogate pregnancy, which is illegal in Spain, is a form of violence against women.
It was not clear whether Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez’s minority coalition government, which has made women’s rights a priority, has enough support in the assembly to pass the bill.
The draft bill has provoked a debate in Spain about whether the paid menstrual leave rule will help or hamper women in the workplace.
‘It will only create more conflict when deciding on whether to hire a woman or not,’ said 21-year-old student Pablo Beltran Martin.
But Equality Minister Irene Montero said the law will recognise a health problem that has been largely swept under the carpet until now.
‘Periods will no longer be taboo,’ she told a news conference after the cabinet approved the bill.
‘We will be the first country in Europe to introduce a temporary sick leave that is fully financed by the state for painful and incapacitating periods,’ she added.
‘No more going to work with pain, no more taking pills before arriving at work and having to hide the fact on days we’re pain that makes us unable to work.’