Spanish cabinet approves paid ‘menstrual leave’, a first in Europe

MADRID (AFP) – Spain’s cabinet on Tuesday (May 17) approved a bill which grants paid medical leave for women who suffer from severe period pain, in what would be a first in Europe.

The bill entitles workers experiencing period pain to as much time off as they need, with the state social security system – not employers – picking up the tab for the sick leave.

As with paid leave for other health reasons, a doctor must approve the temporary medical incapacity.

The proposed legislation must still be approved by parliament, with a vote not expected for months.

It was not clear whether Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez’s minority coalition government, which has made women’s rights a priority, has enough support in the assembly to pass it.

The proposal has split the coalition and even divided unions, with some saying it could stigmatise women in the workplace and favour the recruitment of men.

But Equality Minister Irene Montero said the law will recognise a health problem that has been largely swept under the carpet until now.

“Periods will no longer be taboo,” she told a news conference after the cabinet approved the bill.

“We will be the first country in Europe to introduce a temporary sick leave that is fully financed by the state for painful and incapacitating periods,” she added.

‘No more hiding our pain’

“No more going to work with pain, no more taking pills before arriving at work and having to hide the fact on days we’re pain that makes us unable to work.”

Montero belongs to the far-left Podemos party, Sanchez’s junior coalition partner which has been the driving force behind the law.

Menstrual leave is currently offered only in a small number of countries across the globe, among them South Korea and Indonesia – and none in Europe.

The Spanish legislation is part of a much wider reproductive health reform which will include changes to the country’s abortion laws.

It will end the requirement for minors of 16 and 17 to obtain parental consent before terminating a pregnancy and include measure to boost access to abortion at private hospitals.

Spain decriminalised abortion in 1985 in cases of rape, if a foetus is malformed or if a birth poses a serious physical or psychological risk to the mother.

The scope of the law was broadened in 2010 to allow abortion on demand in the first 14 weeks of pregnancy, but access to the procedure is complicated by the fact that many doctors in public hospitals refuse to perform abortions.