Spain debating plans to become first country in Europe to offer menstrual leave

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Spanish cabinet ministers are today discussing plans to introduce a law that would allow women to take up to five days of menstrual leave a month.

Draft new legislation – leaked to Spanish media outlets – proposes giving workers who suffer from severe period pain three days of optional medical leave a month, with two additional days permitted in exceptional cases.

“We will recognise in the law the right to leave for women who have painful periods that will be financed by the state,” equality minister Irene Montero tweeted on Friday.

She said it would no longer be “normal to go to work in pain”, adding the move would “end the stigma, shame and silence around periods”.

Jose Luis Escriva, Spain’s minister for inclusion, social security and migration, sought to temper expectations last week, describing the leaked proposal as a draft that was still “under discussion” within the country’s coalition government.

If approved, Spain would become the first country in Europe to allow workers to take menstrual leave.

While some described the policy as long overdue, others cautioned against it.

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On whether the measure could put off some employers from hiring women, Spanish daily newspaper El Mundo reported the cost of the leave would be undertaken by the state – citing Ms Montero, with her warning: “Not hiring for this would be discriminating against women.”

“You have to be careful with this type of decision,” said Cristina Antonanzas, deputy secretary of UGT, one of the country’s largest trade unions, adding the move could indirectly impact “women’s access to the labour market”.

“I don’t know if it does us women a disservice,” she told Cadena SER radio station.

But Spain’s other major trade union, the CCOO, said the proposed measure was “justified” if period pain prevents a woman from working, and called it a major “legislative advance” that will recognise a health problem that has been “ignored” until now.

“If we men had periods, this leave would have come decades ago. That is the problem,” tweeted Inigo Errejon, leader of the left-wing party Mas Pais.

Spain’s secretary of state for equality, Angela Rodriguez, floated the idea of providing some sort of menstrual leave in March.

“It’s important to be clear about what we mean by painful period,” she told El Periodico newspaper.

“We’re not talking about a slight discomfort, but about serious symptoms such as diarrhoea, fever and bad headaches.”

Last year, some local Spanish governments in the Catalonia and Castellon regions, embraced the idea and offered staff menstrual leave.

Only a small number of countries offer menstrual leave including Taiwan, South Korea, Japan, Zambia and Indonesia.

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