Spain’s Ministry of Equality is looking to pass a law that will offer days off for workers experiencing painful and incapacitating periods.
The reform is part of an abortion and reproductive health law that’s currently being drawn up by the Spanish Ministry of Equality. A leak of the draft, seen by the newspaper El País, shows that the ministry hopes to allow three-day sick leave due to painful and disruptive periods under medical supervision, with the ability to extend to five days for those who have incapacitating periods.
“There is a study that says that 53 percent of women suffer from painful periods and in young people, it rises to 74 percent. This is unacceptable and should make doctors and society reflect,” Ángela Rodríguez, Secretary of State for Equality, said in an interview with El Periódico.
“It is important to clarify what a painful period is: we are not talking about a slight discomfort, but about serious symptoms such as diarrhea, severe headaches, fever. When there is a disease that entails these symptoms, a temporary disability is granted, therefore the same should happen with menstruation and that there’s a possibility that if a woman has a very painful period, she can stay home,” she continued.
“When the problem cannot be solved medically, we believe that it is very sensible that there is a temporary disability associated with this issue,” Rodríguez added.
There is some solid evidence that justifies this bold proposal. A 2019 study, published in the British Medical Journal, looked at how menstruation-related symptoms affected the work and education of 32,748 women in the Netherlands aged 15 to 45 years of age. It concluded that almost 14 percent of respondents have taken days off due to their period, while over 3 percent said they have to take days off every or almost every menstrual cycle. When they called in sick due to their periods, just 20 percent told their employer or school that their absence was due to their menstrual cycle.
Another aspect of Spain's draft law looks to make menstrual hygiene products free in public buildings and review the heavy taxation that’s imposed on sanitary pads, tampons, etc. Many of the headlines in Spain have been grabbed by another part of the bill that explains that people from the age of 16 will be able to receive an abortion without their parents' permission.
The draft may undergo changes until next week and it still needs to go through Spain’s Council of Ministers. However, if it does eventually get the green light, Spain will become the first country in Europe to pass such a law. A handful of countries, including Indonesia, South Korea, Taiwan, Zambia, and Japan already offer menstrual leave.