Spain could be first European country to introduce three-day menstrual leave

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  • Spain could become the first European country to offer women workplace period leave.
  • Politicians, however, warned that the draft was not yet set in stone.
  • Very few countries offer leave to employees with severe period pain.

Spain could become the first European country to introduce three days medical leave per month for women with severe period pain. The leave could be extended to five days in some circumstances, according to media reports.

The reform is part of a broader draft bill on reproductive health and abortion rights. It was revealed by Cadena SER radio station this week. While it is expected to be approved at next week’s Cabinet meeting, government sources warned that it was subject to changes. 

"If someone has an illness with such symptoms, a temporary disability is granted, so the same should happen with menstruation – allowing a woman with a very painful period to stay at home," Ángela Rodríguez, the country’s Secretary of State for Equality and Gender Violence, told Spanish newspaper El Periódico.

El Pais notes that the draft bill specifies that it would combat "stereotypes and myths about menstruation that still exist and that hinder women's lives". The draft indicates that the leave will be allowed with a doctor's note.

Said Rodríguez: "When the problem cannot be solved medically, we believe that it is very sensitive, that there is a temporary disability associated with the issue," Rodriguez said. "It is important to clarify what a painful period is. We are not talking about a slight discomfort, but about serious symptoms such as diarrhoea, severe headaches, fever."

Other countries offering period leave

Dysmenorrhea, a medical term to describe painful menstrual periods caused by uterine contractions, affects 45–95% of menstruating women, according to a 2021 study published in Frontiers in Public Health.

Very few countries globally have period leave entitlement in place. They include Japan, Taiwan, China, Bihar in India, South Korea, and Zambia. Japan's legislation has existed for more than 70 years.

However, whether women will truly benefit from this law remains to be seen. Past reporting by CNN noted that usage of period leave had dropped over the years in South Korea and Japan. 

There could be many reasons for this: Companies may not be required to pay for menstrual leave days, while some women may not be aware of it, Yumiko Murakami, head of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development's (OECD) Tokyo Center, told the cable news network. 

There is also a huge cultural stigma around menstruation in many parts of the world, so women might not feel comfortable using this leave.

For example, a survey of more than 32 000 Dutch women, published in 2019 in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), found that when women called in sick because of period pain, only 20% (one in five) told their employer the real reason for their absence. 

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READ | 'Period flu' might be why you feel so crappy right before your period

READ | 4 things your period could be trying to tell you right now

READ | Do irregular periods mean a shorter lifespan?

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