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Spain's Cabinet approves menstrual leave bill

May 17, 2022

Spain could become the first European country to cover sick leave for workers experiencing period pain. The draft law, which still has to pass through Parliament, has sparked a debate.

A woman observes a period calendar tracker app on her mobile phone at her home in while period products appear in the background
The draft law will allow women to take as many paid days off as they need while they experience menstrual painImage: Isabel Infantes/REUTERS

The Spanish Cabinet on Tuesday approved a draft law that grants workers the right to take paid sick leave due to severe menstrual pain

If Parliament also approves the bill, Spain would become the first European country with such a law. 

South Korea and Indonesia are among only a handful of countries around the world that allow paid menstrual leave.

"We are making a law that will ensure that women can live better," Spanish Equality Minister Irene Montero told reporters after a Cabinet meeting. 

"It's an end to working in pain and popping pills," Montero added.

What we know about the bill 

Workers experiencing period pain will have the right to stay home as long as they need. A doctor consultation will be required to estimate the leave period. 

The law would cost the Spanish government, not employers, some €23.8 million ($25 million) per year.

The legislation is part of a broader reproductive health reform that is set to also include changes to Spain's abortion laws.

"We are advancing feminism. Women should be able to decide freely about their lives," Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez wrote on Twitter.

Path from bill to law

The draft bill will go to a public hearing before another reading in the Cabinet and a vote in the lower house of Parliament. Observers have said it won't be presented for a vote in Parliament before the end of the year. 

Besides the length of the process, several politicians and unions of different ideologies have expressed reservations about the bill.

It's not yet clear if Sanchez's Socialist minority coalition government has enough support in the assembly to pass it.

Economy Minister Nadia Calvino warned the regulation could "stigmatize women" and put them at a disadvantage when competing for jobs.

Cristina Antonanzas, deputy secretary-general of one of Spain's largest trade unions, the UGT, also warned that the measure could impact "women's access to the labor market."

"You have to be careful with this type of decision," she said.

The United We Can party, the junior member of the left-wing coalition government, is the driving force behind the bill.

The government has made women's rights one of its political banners since it came to power around four years ago. Eight men and 14 women occupy ministerial positions in the Spanish Cabinet.

Spain's controversial transgender law

fb/msh (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters) 

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