When it comes to menstrual health, it looks like Spain is leading the way – in Europe, at least. They’ve become the first country on the continent to offer paid menstrual leave, and it’s left me scratching my head as to why this isn’t already a thing in most places.
For many, this might seem like common sense. Period pain can be extremely debilitating and affect not only our ability to work, but the quality of it too.
It’s true that they affect everyone differently and on different scales so the key thing to focus on here is that for those in Spain at least, there’s now a choice. An option that would be pretty well welcomed in the UK, surely?
Under current UK law, employees who are unable to work due to severe period pain or other period related symptoms are generally required to take sick leave. However, Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) is not payable for the first three days of absence.
In Spain, workers will be entitled to three days of paid menstrual leave a month with the option of extending it to five. According to the country’s equality minister, Irene Montero, women are not full citizens without these rights.
Although Spain is the first country in Europe to formally recognise this, there are other places around the world where menstrual leave exists, albeit in different ways: Japan, Vietnam, South Korea and Indonesia, to name a few.
Roughly one-third of women face extremely painful periods according to the Spanish Association of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, and this legislation seems like the bare minimum.
Women don't choose to be in pain every month. And yes we can use our sick leave – but what happens when we don’t then have enough to cover other sickness? According to YouGov, 45 per cent of Brits are in favour of paid menstrual leave. So, where is it?
There’s a lot of debate though, even amongst women, about menstrual leave. Some believe that such leave would enforce negative gender stereotypes and lead to more employment discrimination against women.
There’s no doubt that it’s a complicated issue but this is no reason to simply not bother with it. Hot-take, but I believe if men experienced menstrual cramps every month, there would be all manner of policies in place.
Whilst some women may be able to breeze through their periods and take on huge adventurous challenges while on their period (a la every tampon advert ever), some women struggle to even stand up straight.
That’s just the way it is, and I certainly don’t pretend I’m not doubled over in agony and seeing black spots in my vision just to prove a point about my ability to work through the pain. That’s the opposite of progression, and counter productive for everyone involved.
It’s great to see what’s happening in Spain, and I know many pairs of eyes will be trained on that slice of Europe over the coming months to see what comes of it. I only hope that some of those eyes belong to the people who have the power, and common sense, to consider something similar here in the UK.
Do you think that the UK should offer paid menstrual leave? Sign in and let us know your thoughts in the comments below
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