Spain becomes the first country in Europe to offer period leave at work

The Spanish Ministry of Equality wants to pass a law that offers days off for workers who have painful and incapacitated periods.

The reform is part of an abortion and reproductive health law currently being drafted by the Spanish Ministry of Equality. A leak of the concept, seen by the newspaper El Paisshows the ministry hopes to allow three days of sick leave for painful and disruptive periods under medical supervision, with the option to extend to five days for those who are incapacitated.

“There is a study that says 53 percent of women experience painful periods and in young people this rises to 74 percent. This is unacceptable and should make doctors and society think,” Ángela Rodríguez, Secretary of State for Equality, said in an interview with El Periodico

“It is important to clarify what a painful period is: we are not talking about a mild discomfort, but about serious symptoms such as diarrhoea, severe headache, fever. If there is a disease causing these symptoms then a temporary incapacity for work is granted, therefore the same should happen with menstruation and there is the possibility that if a woman has a very painful period she can stay at home,” she continued.

“If the problem cannot be solved medically, we believe it is very sensible that there is a temporary disability associated with this problem,” added Rodríguez.

There is some solid evidence to justify this bold proposition. A 2019 study published in the British medical journal looked at the influence of menstrual-related symptoms on work and education of 32,748 women in the Netherlands aged 15 to 45 years. It concluded that nearly 14 percent of respondents took vacation days because of their periods, while more than 3 percent said they should take a day off every or almost every menstrual cycle. When they called in sick because of their periods, only 20 percent told their employer or school that their absence was due to their menstrual cycle.

Another aspect of the Spanish draft law is to make menstrual hygiene products free in public buildings and to review the heavy tax levied on sanitary pads, tampons, etc. Many of the headlines in Spain have been gripped by a different part of the bill explaining that people from the age of 16 can have an abortion without parental consent.

The draft can be changed until next week and still has to go through the Spanish Council of Ministers. If it does eventually get the green light, Spain will become the first country in Europe to pass such a law. A handful of countries, including Indonesia, South Korea, Taiwan, Zambia, and Japan already bid menstrual leave.

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