UPDATE: On Feb. 16, 2023, Spain became the first country in Europe entitling its workers to paid menstrual leave. The legislation allows workers who suffer from debilitating period pain to take paid time off. The original story continues as published below:
Spain was trending on Twitter after media outlets reported that the country’s government could allow people to take up to three days off per month for menstrual leave.
More than half of people who menstruate have some pain for one to two days each month, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. For some people, the pain is so severe that it keeps them from doing normal activities for at least several days per month.
The Spanish Cabinet is expected to discuss the proposed legislation on Tuesday, May 17 and the country’s minister for inclusion, social security and migration described the final version as still “under discussion,” the Associated Press reports. It’s unclear if the leave would be paid or unpaid.
The Telegraph newspaper in the United Kingdom reported that Spain would be the first western country to offer menstrual leave. In response, the Female Quotient said in an Instagram post that Spain would join a list of other countries that already do so.
Do other countries offer menstrual leave?
Yes, other countries offer menstrual leave.
WHAT WE FOUND
After World War II, Japan was the first country to allow people to take menstrual leave. The law says people can take time off during their menstrual periods if lower abdominal pain, back pain or headache, among other symptoms, make it difficult for them to do their work. It does not set a limit on the number of days or mandate that a person is paid during that time.
Paid and unpaid menstrual leave policies have also been documented in Vietnam, Indonesia, Zambia, Taiwan, and parts of India and China. Here’s a breakdown of existing menstrual leave policies by country.
In Indonesia, employees do not have to work on the first and second day of their menstrual period as long as they notify their employer, according to labor laws.
Zambia offers one day of menstrual leave per month.
Employees in Taiwan receive three days of menstrual leave per year that are not counted toward days off for sick leave under the Act of Gender Equality in Employment. Wages for menstrual leave are half of the employee’s regular pay.
India does not offer menstrual leave for everyone in the country, but some states do have policies in place – including Bihar, which has been offering two days of leave since 1992. Some private companies in India, including Mumbai-based media firm Culture Machine, also offer menstrual leave.
Liaoning, a province in northeastern China, offers two days of menstrual leave per month for period pain, according to a 2020 report from the South China Morning Post. CNN reported in 2016 that several other provinces in the country also offer menstrual leave.
Vietnam offers one 30-minute paid break during each day of menstruation rather than full days off, according to the United Nations’ International Labor Organization (ILO).
Policies considered in other countries
Western countries like Italy, Chile and Mexico have also considered menstrual leave policies. Some Australians have also argued for paid menstrual leave.
The United States does not offer paid or unpaid menstrual leave, and there are no federal legal requirements for paid sick leave in the country, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) does require companies subject to it to provide unpaid sick leave. There have been documented instances of women using unpaid sick leave for menstrual pain.