Spain announces historic decision on sick leave for menstrual cramps

History in Spain - leave for menstrual cramps
The State (and not the employers) wil pay for those days off
A revolutionary rule
Spain, the first to establish menstrual leave in Europe
The data
Symptoms of endometriosis
Not just endometriosis
A BBC investigation
British Medical Journal research
The conclusions of the study
Dysmenorrhea
Other symptoms of dysmenorrhea
Fighting prejudice
In the rest of Europe
A controversial topic
Concerns in Spain
Discrepancies in the Spanish government
Another reluctant minister
Trade union members have doubts
What are Spanish legislators' concerns?
In favor
Heated debates
Elisabetta Franchi and her corporate policy
Fear of legislation that has already been enacted in some places
The Japanese example
South Korea
Indonesia, Taiwan, Mexico, and Zambia
India: an individual initiative
A letter to employees
In Australia
Kristy Chong's experience
French companies are also enacting this policy
Fighting taboos
This is just the beginning
History in Spain - leave for menstrual cramps

A new policy has made history in Spain. The progressive coalition comprised of two Spanish political parties PSOE and Unidas Podemos has reached an agreement: a women's right to take medical leave for mestrual cramps will be included in broad reproductive health legislation that includes an updated abortion law. But how will this policy play out?

The State (and not the employers) wil pay for those days off

"We're going to legally recognize a woman's right to special temporary disability due to menstrual cramps that will be paid for by the State starting on the first day." explained Irene Montero, Minister of Equality.

A revolutionary rule

The measure, which is the brainchild of several ministries (including the Ministry of Equality and the Ministry of Social Security), sets a revolutionary precedent in European and global legislation.

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Spain, the first to establish menstrual leave in Europe

Spain will be the first country in Europe to establish the option for women suffering from dysmenorrhea, endometriosis, or adenomyosis to request a three-day paid leave. This leave can be extended for up to five days. The policy could benefit millions of women...

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The data

According to data provided by the WHO, endometriosis affects around 150 million women of childbearing age, 14 million of which are located in Europe.  The tenth revision of the 'International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems' recognized menstrual-cycle associated pain as a disease, ranking number 94 on this list.

Symptoms of endometriosis

Women with endometriosis report symptoms such as asthenia, depression, and mild hyperthermia. Almost all of them suffer from intense menstrual pain that can become chronic and persistent. The pain has tangible effects on their quality of life. For this reason, endometriosis is considered a debilitating disease.

Photo: Vladislav Muslakov/Unsplash

Not just endometriosis

Even if we exclude those who suffer from endometriosis, the number of women who suffer from menstrual pain is very high.

Photo: Alicia Petresc / Unsplash

A BBC investigation

According to a BBC Radio 5 investigation, 91% of women interviewed reported suffering from menstrual pain, and about 57% reported that the pain was so severe that it compromised their ability to work.

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British Medical Journal research

Another study published in the British Medical Journal surveyed 32,748 women ages 15 to 45. The study reveals that productivity loss due to menstrual pain add up to 9 days per year.

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The conclusions of the study

This research's conclusions are clear: "Menstruation-related symptoms cause significant productivity loss." The researchers added that "it's urgent to focus more on the impact of these symptoms [...] to discuss treatment options with women of all ages", and "giving more flexibility to women who work or study."

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Dysmenorrhea

According to the data, most women suffer from dysmenorrhea, a medical term defined as sharp cramps in the lower abdomen, back, inside of the abdomen, and the legs, especially during the first days of the menstrual cycle.

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Other symptoms of dysmenorrhea

According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), dysmenorrhea-related throbbing and cramping associated is often accompanied by other conditions, such as nausea, headache, dizziness, lower back pain, etc. Psychological and physiological problems such as nervousness, fatigue and mood swings can also occur.

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Fighting prejudice

According to the Italian Ministry of Health, "starting at an early age, it's important to teach [people] that menstrual cramps and pain during sexual intercourse are not normal and should not be ignored." In other words, it's important combat prejudices about menstrual pain and not be afraid to talk about it.

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In the rest of Europe

Despite the Italian Ministry of Health recommendations, there is no legislation in Italy protecting women in this regard. This does not happen in other European Union countries such as France or Germany.

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A controversial topic

This topic has been controversial and led to a deadlock. Despite the fact that these controversies have arisen, the Spanish government has overcome this deadlock, and it looks like the policy will be enacted very soon.

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Concerns in Spain

Implementing this measure in Spain wasn't welcomed with open arms at the beginning. One of the main criticisms of the policy was its potential detrimental consequences for working women.

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Discrepancies in the Spanish government

As reported by El País, the Minister of Economy, Nadia Calviño, said: "[The Government] believes in and is absolutely committed to gender equality and will never adopt provisions that could lead to the stigmatization of women." Was she talking about stigma associated with menstrual pain? This right wing Minister didn't seem convinced by the policy.

Another reluctant minister

The newspaper El País also reported the statements of José Luis Escrivá, head of the Ministry of Inclusion and Social Security: "Our position is that this law must harmonize two elements: improve the protection of women and promote their participation under the best conditions within the labor market".

Trade union members have doubts

Even the deputy general secretary of the Spanish union UGT expressed her doubts about the policy in an interview on 'Espejo Público' citing possible stigmatization of women: "This gender prejudice... we'll have to see if it won't end up harming us in the long term.”

What are Spanish legislators' concerns?

In Spain, some legislators fear that if menstrual leave is approved an underlying problem could be revealed that, unfortunately, has not yet been solved: employers could give priority to hiring a man over to a woman. This is already highly debated issue in the context of maternity leave.

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In favor

“It may be that it stigmatizes [women], but motherhood and breastfeeding already stigmatize [them], and that's what we have to fight against. What we can't do is hide it,” said Carolina Vidal, confederal secretary for Women, Equality and Working Conditions of the Workers' Commissions union.

Heated debates

Discussions surrounding gender issues in the work world may seem outdated, but nothing is further from the truth. They're very topical and necessary. This is illustrated by the media frenzy caused by the controversial statements made by designer Elisabetta Franchi in early May during an event promoted by PwC called 'Women and Fashion: the 2022 barometer'.

Elisabetta Franchi and her corporate policy

“If young women are absent for two years due to maternity leave, it is a problem,” the stylist said on at the event. Franchi affirmed that she looks for "mature" men and women over 40 years to fill "important" positions within her company without running the risk of hiring young women  who are about to marry and have children, adding that "an employer can't afford to lose a professional figure for two years because of motherhood."

Fear of legislation that has already been enacted in some places

Given these types of statements  are certainly more common than we could ever imagine, the Spanish's executive concerns about the possible repercussions of menstrual pain leave on women's access to work aren't surprising. However, the results of this policy enacted in other parts of the world  should be reassuring.

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The Japanese example

Japan, has recognized the right menstual leave since 1947. During that year, the Japanese government extended this leave to all working women suffering from dysmenorrhea.

Photo: Eutah Mizushima/Unsplash

South Korea

South Korea granted women menstural leave in 1953.

Photo: Daniel Bernard/Unsplash

Indonesia, Taiwan, Mexico, and Zambia

Other countries that offer menstrual leave and similar regulations to protect women include Indonesia, Taiwan, Mexico and Zambia.

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India: an individual initiative

Individual entrepreneurs have also independently enacted this policy for their workers. One of these entrepreneurs is Deepinder Goyal (pictured), founder and CEO of Indian food delivery giant Zomato.

A letter to employees

In a letter to his female and male employees in August 2020, Deepinder Goyal (left) announced the launch of menstrual leave for all women (including trans women) in the company. The policy grants women up to ten days per year to take a break from work for severe pain associated with menstruation.

"We have to support them if we want to build a truly collaborative culture"

"Even if we don't fully understand what women go through, we have to trust them when they say they need to rest. I know period cramps are very painful for many women and we need to support them if we want to build a truly collaborative culture at Zomato," Deepinder concluded. He called on his male employees to support this measure.

In Australia

This policy promoted by the Indian businessman isn't the only example. In Australia, many companies also have a policy providing greater flexibility for women during menstruation and menopause.

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Kristy Chong's experience

In an interview with the BBC, CEO of Modibodi Kristy Chong, asserted that trust between managers and workers has increased after enacting this policy, and employees are more productive than before.

Photo: SOCIALS. CUT / Clear

French companies are also enacting this policy

Despite the fact that nothing has been legislated at a national level, some French companies have adopted a similar policy. One example is the Louis de Labège furniture factory which, according to France Bleu, granted its female employees one day of paid vacation during their menstrual cycle.

Fighting taboos

Although it still seems like a taboo subject in some countries and workplaces, the debate surrounding menstruation is more alive than ever. Tiktokers who use the #PeriodTok hashtag know this well. They promote  discussions about the menstrual cycle that, until recently, would have been censored by many social networks.

Photo: Aunt Flow/Unsplash

This is just the beginning

However, there's still a long way to go to combat prejudices about the menstrual cycle and the pain associated with it. Women shouldn't be ashamed. They should feel comfortable discussing it without fear of repercussions, because it's the first and most important step to take.

Photo: Ehimetalor Akhere Unuabona/Unsplash

 

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