Spain Passed A Bill Creating Menstrual Leave For All Women

In December 2022, Spain passed a bill creating menstrual leave for all women who suffer from painful periods. What's the rest of the world doing?

From adolescence to menopause, every month. For several days or a week. Excruciatingly painful or simply painful. We all have periods.

There are mornings when I wake up with cramps, a stomachache, and exhaustion from a lack of sleep. When I have an important appointment or a work meeting, I, like many of us, worry that my period will arrive at that time.

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And, once again, I'm fortunate to be one of the lucky ones. Endometriosis is not a problem for me. They also only last a few days.

Getting out of bed, dressing, and going to work during menstruation can be a challenge for some girls, women, and menstruating people. 

When pain prevents you from concentrating, standing up, or even speaking, how do you care for a patient in the hospital, navigate a factory floor, or deliver an important presentation to a client?

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Women in Indonesia are allowed two days of menstrual leave per month as part of their sick leave. In Taiwan, three additional days are granted per year for menstruation on top of the statutory 30, whereas Zambia has a legal right to one day off per month for menstruation.

In Japan, a law stating that those having a difficult menstruation period should be given time off has been in effect since 1947, but it is not required to be paid leave. 

While enrollment was initially relatively high, with around 26% in 1965, a 2017 government survey found that only 0.9% of female employees claimed it.

The same is true in South Korea, where women have the right to take period leave, but use has declined from 23.6% in 2013 to 19.7% in 2017 as extra pay is given to those who do not take it.

Women are unable to obtain leave due to cultural norms and workplace pressure. Japan and South Korea have some of the OECD's highest gender pay gaps and the lowest proportions of female managers.

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Companies can also choose to implement a menstrual leave policy to attract and retain female employees by making a statement about caring for their well-being. 

While it has been adopted in some Indian states, the Indian food delivery company Zomato, for example, has rolled it out nationally. 

The announcement was significant in a country with one of the lowest female labor-force participation rates in the world, at 35%, and where girls miss 20% of the school year due to menstruation.

On December 15, Spanish lawmakers passed legislation establishing menstrual leave for all women who experience painful periods. 

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The bill received 190 yes votes, 154 no votes, and 5 abstentions. If it is approved by the Senate and eventually implemented, it will be a first in Europe.

According to a 2019 survey of Dutch women, 14% had taken time off from work or school during their period, with only 20% giving the true reason. In France, two-thirds of women now support menstrual leave.

To be fair, feminist, and equitable, a health system must prioritize menstrual health and address the issues that arise with painful periods. 

Every country has work to do in this area, from improving access to menstrual hygiene and toilet facilities to making period products more affordable.

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Despite challenges with implementation and access to this right for all workers, menstrual leave legislation is important. Women in Japan, Indonesia, Korea, Zambia, and, soon, Spain are entitled to it; why not all?

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