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Spain is proposing to introduce a bill that allows workers to take menstrual leave if they suffer from severe period pain.

The proposal would make Spain the first country in Europe to allow this kind of leave.

A leaked draft of new legislation that the Spanish Cabinet is expected to discuss next week proposed giving workers experiencing period pain three days of optional leave a month, with two additional days permitted in exceptional cases.

It was not clear if the leave would be paid or unpaid, or whether it would be offered as flexible hours that employees would have to make up within a specific time frame.

Cropped shot of a woman suffering from stomach pain on the sofa at home
Spain is considering introducing legislation to allow for menstrual leave. (Getty)

José Luis Escrivá, Spain’s minister for inclusion, social security and migration, sought to temper expectations, describing the leaked proposal as a draft that was still “under discussion” within the coalition government.

The Ministry of Equality, one of four ministries led by the hard-left junior partner in the Socialist-led Spanish government, was behind the proposed bill, according to private news radio network Cadena SER, which first reported the measure.

The ministry said it had not leaked the draft and that the version the Cabinet considers could undergo revisions.

Spain’s secretary of state for equality, Ángela Rodríguez, floated the idea of providing some sort of menstrual leave in March.

“It’s important to be clear about what we mean by painful period,” she told El Periódico newspaper.

“We’re not talking about a slight discomfort, but about serious symptoms such as diarrhoea, fever and bad headaches.”

Pelvic pain stomachache concept. Hands of young woman on stomach as suffer on menstruation cramp, indigestion,gastrointestinal,diarrhea  problem
The leave would only be available for women who suffer from severe period pain. (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

While a handful of private companies across Europe have adopted period policies, enacting a nationwide approach would make Spain a pioneer in Europe.

Parts of Asia, ranging from Japan to South Korea, have long had menstrual leave rules, though the extent to which they are used has been debated.

Italy briefly flirted with the idea in 2016, proposing a bill that would have provided three fully paid days off to workers who obtained medical certificates.

The proposal failed to progress before the parliamentary term ran out in 2018.

However, not all are in favour of the government proposal with concerns the legislation may hinder rather than help women.

One of Spain’s major labour unions panned the draft legislation, saying it could lead to women facing workplace discrimination.

“I’m not sure if we’re doing a disservice to us women,” Cristina Antoñanzas of the General Union of Workers told Cadena Ser.

The idea that women required time off work while menstruating risked “stigmatising women,” she added.

Others described a monthly leave policy as long overdue.

“If we men had periods, this leave would have come decades ago. That is the problem,” Íñigo Errejón, the leader of the left-wing party Más País, said on Twitter.

A handful of local governments in Spain already have embraced the idea.

The Catalan city of Girona said in June 2021 that it would allow its more than 1,300 municipal employees up to eight hours of menstrual leave a month and give them up to three months to make up any time used.

Similar policies were adopted for municipal workers in the Catalan municipalities of Ripoll and Les Borges Blanques, as well as in the eastern city of Castellón de la Plana.

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