Spain Is Introducing Three Days Period Leave A Month. Should We?

Would you take period leave?
Would you take period leave?
thianchai sitthikongsak via Getty Images
Would you take period leave?

Spain is on its way to becoming the first European country to offer paid menstrual leave, up to three days per month.

The move, set to be introduced from next week after Spain’s next cabinet meeting, also welcomes workers to take time off for other reproductive health reasons, such as abortions.

The Secretary of State for Equality and against Gender Violence, Ángela Rodríguez, announced a range of measures set to offer women and girls better provisions.

The reform also includes free period products to students in school.

“The rights related to menstrual health have never been discussed and the data is chilling,” Rodríguez told a Spanish news website.

“One in four women cannot choose the feminine hygiene products she wants to buy for financial reasons. That is why we propose that they can be dispensed free of charge in educational and social centres.”

While not everyone who gets periods will suffer from debilitating symptoms, there are some who experience extreme pain which can be a sign of health conditions such as dysmenorrhea and endometriosis. But the provisions are to be reserved for extreme pain.

Rodríguez added: “It is important to clarify what a painful period is, we are not talking about a slight discomfort, but about serious symptoms such as diarrhoea, severe headaches, fever.

“Symptoms that when there is a disease that entails them, a temporary disability is granted, therefore the same should happen with menstruation and that there is the possibility that if a woman has a very painful period, she can stay home.”

Other countries around the world also offer a similar package to menstruating women including Japan, Indonesia, South Korea, and Zambia.

So, should the UK be next? And what does it mean for women in the workforce?

Many school girls are missing school due to their period.
fotostorm via Getty Images
Many school girls are missing school due to their period.

While leave that accommodates different needs is certainly welcome, period leave might still perpetuate period stigma.

In fact, research shows young women are being subjected to verbal abuse and bullying around their periods, with many of those affected suffering in silence.

One in five (20%) of 14-21 year olds has experienced teasing around their periods and made to feel shame, with only half (49%) telling anyone about it. This teasing and bullying often takes place in school – but for one in 10 girls, it has happened online.

Many people have also been missing school and work due to periods, missing out on their work as a result.

Research published in the BMJ in 2019 found 13.8% of women who have periods had missed work or school because of it – but most felt unable to be honest about the reason. Among those who’d called in sick, only 20.1% told their employer or school that their absence was due to menstrual complaints.

In Japan, they’ve considered introducing period badges to alert work staff that a person is menstruating.

But the move faced backlash as it segregates workers and others those who have periods.

It could also lead to discrimination in the workforce, with bosses and companies hiring fewer women over fears of them going on period leave.

So what do women need?

Emma Barnett, journalist and author of the book Period told HuffPost: “I don’t think this helps.”

“Women don’t need a badge. They need the voice to vocalise any issues their periods present. They also need others – loved ones and colleagues – to rid themselves of their unnecessary and ill-founded squeamishness about a perfectly normal bodily process.”

That might certainly be a start.