Painful Period Leave – Is It Really The Solution?

Painful Period Leave – Is It Really The Solution?

The Spanish government has proposed to legislate a sick leave for women suffering from disabling menstruation. It is still under discussion, but it seems that a medical diagnosis will be required and it can be extended up to 5 days. If the law goes through, Spain will become the first country in the European Union to legislate menstrual leave. But… is this really an adequate solution?

The Spanish government has proposed to legislate a sick leave for women suffering from disabling menstruation. It is still under discussion, but it seems that a medical diagnosis will be required and it can be extended up to 5 days. If the law goes through, Spain will become the first country in the European Union to legislate menstrual leave. But… is this really an adequate solution?

The Spanish government has proposed to legislate a sick leave for women suffering from disabling menstruation. It is still under discussion, but it seems that a medical diagnosis will be required and it can be extended up to 5 days. If the law goes through, Spain will become the first country in the European Union to legislate menstrual leave. But… is this really an adequate solution?

Advantages of a painful menstruation leave

Several studies state that more than half of all women suffer from painful periods. 71% of women report that they have become used to working with pain. Spanish Government legislation, still under development, would establish a permit for these cases. Among its most important advantages, we highlight three:

  • Productivity improvements. According to several studies, due to menstrual pain, women lose one-third of their workday time on their period days. Recognizing these losses would help better adjust schedules and make it easier to get work done.
  • Fewer doctor visits.  Currently, many women are forced to visit the health centre every month. Since menstrual pain is cyclical, they must apply for sick leave each time they get their period. Specific legislation could help to lighten these visits and unburden the health care system.
  • Acknowledgement of a reality. According to advocates, a painful period law is a way of recognizing that this is a reality for more than half of women. It would put this problem on the table and help treat it more naturally.

Disadvantages of painful menstrual leave

The measure also has many detractors. There is no consensus, not even within the Spanish government itself. It is not for nothing that it is a measure not legislated in the West. Among the disadvantages highlighted, there are three important ones:

  • Discrimination in the employability of women. This is the most notorious disadvantage that has been put on the table. If the law were to go into effect, women would be at a disadvantage compared to men when it comes to accessing employment. A woman having several days of leave per month can put her at a disadvantage. In fact, in several countries where it is implemented, women hardly take leave at all (you can see this in-depth below).
  • Privacy issues. The right to have our health data kept confidential is enshrined in law. How does that fit with women taking leave for a few days each month? It is difficult to balance something that should be a personal matter but is embedded in the professional sphere.
  • It can lead to stigmatization. After all, any health condition already has the possibility of taking time off work if the doctor sees fit. Is it really necessary to create a specific law for menstruation? It should be enough for every woman to go to the doctor if she needs to. Isn’t this creating more gender differences?

How is menstrual leave regulated in the world?

How might a painful menstruation law work in Spain? We can take a look at how regulation is in those countries that have implemented it. Has it been successful? Or has it brought more stigmatization and discrimination?

  • Indonesia. Many countries in Asia have had specific regulations since the 20th century on painful menstruation. Indonesia was one of the first, in 1948. Women workers can take two days off work if they suffer severe pain. This regulation must be reflected in the contract. Currently, there are many complaints in the country because, in practice, companies do not allow women to take these breaks. In addition, many female employees prefer not to request it to avoid being singled out.
  • Japan. The right to period leave has been regulated in Japan since the middle of the 20th century. The law states that it can only be taken in cases where women find it “extremely difficult” to work. As with all sick leaves in Japan, the company is not obliged to maintain the worker’s salary. In recent years, only 0.9% of female employees requested menstrual pain leave in Japan.
  • South Korea. The trend of requesting leave for painful periods has been declining in recent years. Women are entitled to one day off per month, but they are requesting it less and less. The reasons are unclear. However, in 2021, Asiana Airlines was fined almost $1,8000. The cause? Having refused 138 requests for painful menstruation leave from its female employees.
  • Zambia. Although menstruation leave is more widespread in Asian countries, the African country Zambia is also a good example. There, women have one day per month of menstrual leave available to them. This day is independent of the 26 annual medical leave days that all workers in the country have. In fact, in order to have this day off, a medical certificate is not required.
  • Europe. No country on the old continent specifically regulates menstruation leave. In 2017, a law on the matter was debated in Italy, but in the end, it did not go ahead. In Spain, some city councils implemented it in 2021, such as Girona. There, 8 hours per month of leave are offered, recoverable in the following 3 months.

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