Spain Could Soon Offer 3 Days Off Work For Menstrual Leave Every Month

A draft of new legislation that came before the Spanish Cabinet this week proposes offering three days of optional leave every month to workers experiencing menstrual pain. The proposed legislation offered two more days for exceptional cases.

In a March radio interview — before the draft of the legislation leaked in May — Spain’s Secretary of State for Equality, Ángela Rodríguez, mentioned providing sick leave due to severe menstrual pain.

“It is a measure of common sense,” Rodriguez said in the interview with Spanish radio station Cadena Sur.

“It is evident that this generates very uncomfortable situations at work,” she continued. “We are talking about staying at home or making our working hours more flexible.”

The draft bill, which was approved May 17, would grant leave for more serious symptoms, such as diarrhea and fever, but not mild discomfort, Associated Press reported.

The Ministry of Equality was behind the proposed bill, and Spanish Equality Minister Irene Montero said if the proposals are approved, Spain will be the first European country to grant paid sick leave for period pain.

“The days of (women) going to work in pain are over,” Montero said, adding that it was time for government to “discard taboos, stigmas and guilt regarding women’s bodies,” AP reported.

It is unclear whether the leave would be paid or if employees would be required to make up the time off.

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A 2019 study published in the Journal of Women’s Health found that about 71% of the young women studied experienced dysmenorrhea, or severe and frequent menstrual cramps and pain.

“We no longer want the topic around menstruation to be taboo,” Rodriguez told CBS News. “If someone has an illness with painful symptoms, a temporary sick leave is granted, so the same should happen with menstruation — allowing a woman with a very painful period (to) stay at home.”

Not everyone is in favor of this idea. Cristina Antoñanzas of the General Union of Workers said that, if enacted, the leave could stigmatize women. However, some Spanish local governments are already offering leave to municipal employees.

Though the reform, part of a more comprehensive bill on reproductive health and abortion rights, would make Spain the first Western country to allow leave for period pain, it’s not the first in the world. Taiwan, Indonesia and Zambia already offer menstrual leave, as do some provinces in China and India, and Vietnam offers extra breaks in the work day.