cramp relief

Spain Becomes First European Nation To Offer Paid Menstrual Leave

The law is part of a broader package that expands women’s rights.

Carol Yepes/Moment/Getty Images

Spain has officially passed a law that allows women to get paid time off from work if they are suffering from a painful period. Those with female anatomy can now receive three paid days of leave — with the possibility of extending the leave to five days — if they have a note from their doctor that they’re experiencing painful or debilitating periods. The money will come from the country’s social security fund.

While a few countries in Asia and Africa, including Japan, Taiwan, Indonesia, South Korea and Zambia, already have similar paid menstrual leave policies in place, Spain is the first country in Europe to pass such legislation.

Wondering how the United States compares? Um, we still don’t even have paid parental leave, unlike most of the rest of the world. So take your Midol and get to work.

The new Spanish law is part of a larger package of feminist and pro-trans legislation that was passed this week. In addition to paid menstrual leave, people over 16 can now change their legal gender, anyone 16 or older can access abortion, and conversion therapy is now illegal. In addition, the country has ended its three day “reflection period” for abortions and banned public subsidies for organizations that promote “incite or promote LGBTIphobia.”

Oh! And there is now paid pre-maternity leave, starting at 36 weeks pregnant, and free contraceptives, including free morning-after pills.

Excuse me, I’m packing my bags.

“There will be resistance to its application, just as there has been and there will be resistance to the application of all feminist laws,” Irene Montero, Spain’s equality minister told parliament. “So we have to work to guarantee that when this law enters into force, it will be enforced".

And she posted a celebratory picture on Twitter, captioned, “They are the law!”

Does the United States even have an equality minister? Stop asking questions and get back to work, ladies!

While many support the new paid menstrual leave law, not everyone around the world is happy with its development. On the right, there are claims of “reverse sexism” and special treatment. While on the left, some say that the law will hurt women and lead to further stigma surrounding periods and menstruation.

"Is it liberating? Are these policies that recognize the reality of our bodies at work and seek to support them? Or is this a policy that stigmatizes, embarrasses, is a disincentive for employing women,” asks Elizabeth Hill, an associate professor at the University of Sydney who has extensively studied menstrual leave policies worldwide, who spoke with Euronews.

In Russia, a menstrual leave policy was put in place during the Soviet era to encourage women’s fertility. And in places like Indonesia and Taiwan, their menstrual leave policies are mainly for use by factory workers who work in places with strict policies and poor sanitation. In Japan and South Korea, policies are in place, but the vast majority of women don’t take it out of embarrassment or worry that their jobs may be affected.

At the same time, studies have found period pain, including cramps, headaches, dizziness, nausea, and vomiting, causes nine days of missed work or school annually for women. And due to stigma, only 20% of those missing obligations reported the actual reason they were feeling sick.

In other words, the law will be hard to implement, and for women to utilize, due to ongoing stigma and sexism. But at least it’s in place — that’s a step.