On Thursday, 16 February, Spain’s Congress passed a landmark law allowing female workers to request paid menstrual leave if they suffer period pains, making it a pioneering country in Europe to implement this rule. Along with Japan, Indonesia and Zambia, there are now four countries in the world that are in favour of this new labour right.
Brought about by the Ministry of Equality, the text explains that the special situation of temporary incapacity for common contingencies will be considered as that sick leave in which the woman may be in case of secondary incapacitating menstruation or secondary dysmenorrhoea associated with pathologies such as endometriosis.
This new measure is seen as a major step forward in the fight for gender equality in Spain. Many women find it difficult to fulfil their work responsibilities during their menstrual periods and, in general, sick leave is a sensitive issue in companies.
It is a question of giving an appropriate regulation to this pathological situation in order to eliminate any kind of negative bias in the workplace, the text continues.
This leave will allow them to take time off without having to justify their absence to their employer. However, the law has not specified how long they may be on leave. The responsible doctor will be in charge of deciding this.
In addition, this measure also aims to improve mental health, as menstrual pain can lead to anxiety, depression and other emotional problems.
Today is a historic day of progress in feminist rights, proclaimed the Minister for Equality, Irene Montero (Podemos), on Twitter. Understanding that menstrual health is part of the right to health, she considers that it is a day of celebration for all women in Spain.
Yet, this event is part of a larger project: the reform of the abortion law. It will expand access to abortion in public hospitals, which perform less than 17 per cent of abortions in the country. It will also allow minors to have abortions without parental permission or consent if they are over 16 years old.
At the same event, the trans law, which protects gender self-determination, implements the depathologisation of transgender people and promotes the right to filiation of sons and daughters of female couples, was also approved.
There will be resistance to the application of this law, as there is and has been with all feminist laws, the minister explained in the congress, regarding the future that awaits this great change. I am aware that the road does not end here.
Despite the huge celebration, this measure has been the subject of public debate in the Congress of Deputies for more than a year. From the left to the right, it has provoked endless commentary, but was finally approved with 185 votes in favour, 154 against and 3 abstentions.
UGT Representatives (Unión General de Trabajadores, “General Workers’ Union”), one of the largest trade unions in the country, have already expressed their concern that this new law could influence the hiring processes and generate more gender gaps between jobs.
On the other hand, the largest opposition party, Partido Popular (PP), was against it because of the hypothetical negative consequences it could have on the labour market, or marginalisation and stigmatisation. Added to this, the new abortion law goes against the ideals defended in the party.
Whatever happens, the passing of this law is an important step and a blow to the international political landscape. The importance of menstruation in the labour panorama is more and more on the governments’ agenda every year. It is certainly a considerable topic to think about in order to ensure the well-being and health of women in the workplace.