Spain is planning to introduce up to five days of ‘menstrual leave’ per month for employees who suffer severe period pain.
Draft legislation put forward by the government suggests that menstruation will be treated as a health issue, however ministers have stressed that the legislation is still being worked on.
Women would be entitled to a three days of sick leave with a doctor’s note, but this could be extended to five on a temporary basis if they sufffered intense or incapacitating pain, according to documents leaked to Spanish media outlets.
The draft also includes extended paid maternity leave before childbirth.
If passed, Spain would be the first country in Europe to introduce menstrual leave. Worldwide, menstrual leave is currently offered only in a handful of countries including Japan, Taiwan, Indonesia, South Korea and Zambia.
According to the Spanish Gynaecological and Obstetric Society, a third of women experience painful menstruation.
Last year, a number of local administratons in Spain began offering menstrual leave to employees. These included the Catalan city of Girona – which introduced the policy for women, trans men and non-binary staff – Ripoll, Les Borges Blanques, and Castellón de la Plana.
Emma Cox, CEO of the charity Endometriosis UK, said the historic “squeamishness” and silence around menstruation needed to be challenged.
“Anyone experiencing pain which means they need to be absent from work should expect to be listened to, believed, and receive support which is appropriate to the type and severity of symptoms they experience. This would be the case with any other condition, so why do employers and government often fail to treat endometriosis and menstrual health conditions in the same way?”
However, introducing a blanket policy risked “downplaying the seriousness of symptoms that some of those with menstrual conditions such as endometriosis, heavy menstrual bleeding and dysmenorrhea (sever period pain) may experience”, said Cox.
“Rather than generic menstrual leave, we want endometriosis recognised for the chronic condition it is, deserving of the same support as any other illness,” she said.
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