Law for Europe’s first ‘menstrual leave’ passed in Spain

Spain becomes the first European country to factor paid menstrual leaves for females, along with other countries, particularly in Asia.

Spain became the first European country on Thursday to entitle female workers to a paid menstrual leave for three days with the option to extend it to five days.

The country’s equality minister suggested during parliament that without such rights, women are not considered full citizens. The government will pay for the menstrual leave provision.

A percentage of women experience pain or dysmenorrhea for one or two days every month. Some experience severe pain that they are unable to perform normal activities for several days, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

Could the law trigger negative gender stereotypes?

It is “becoming more common and contemporary proponents argue they can advance gender equality by normalizing menstruation,” said Marian Baird, a professor of gender and employment relations at the University of Sydney, who co-authored a recent paper on global menstrual leave legislation.

“However, opponents are worried menstrual leave will reinforce negative gender stereotypes and notions of biological determinism, leading to more employer discrimination against women,” she said in an email, adding that it is not easy to gauge the impact of these policies as yet.

In the United States, menstrual leave is not common, but private companies are introducing such policies. An example is a Los Angeles-based maker of an astrology app and a global software company.

The delivery Zomato app in India brought in menstrual leave in 2020. Australia’s Modibodi, a period underwear company, launched a policy in 2021 that offers female employees a ten-day paid menstrual leave annually for both menstruation and menopause.

What countries factor in menstrual leaves?

Under the labor law in 1947, Japan introduced menstrual leave under Article 68, which states that employers cannot ask women with severe menstrual pain to work on those days.

Indonesia is another Asian country that became an early adopter of the menstrual leave policy. Introduced in 1948 and restructured in 2003, the policy states that female workers experiencing menstrual pain are not obliged to work on the first two days of their cycle.

Under Article 73 of South Korea’s labor law, the country offers a monthly “physiologic leave”, where female workers get menstrual leaves.

In Taiwan, female employees can request a day off every month for a period of leave at half their regular wage, under Article 14 of the country’s gender equality employment law. However, the law limits employees to three leaves a year, and any additional days are counted toward sick leave.

Another Asian country to allow menstruation days for female workers is Vietnam, which stipulates a 30-minute break for women every day of their period cycle. In 2020, three-day menstrual leaves a month were added and females who don’t take the days are paid extra.