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In Spain, the government approves a draft law introducing menstrual leave

For some, it is the belated recognition of a pain that many women face without daring to talk to their employer about it. For others, it is a risky measure that associates being a woman with an illness and threatens to further deepen inequalities by hindering the hiring of women.

After an intense debate, including within the ruling left-wing coalition, the Spanish government approved, on Tuesday 17 May, in the Council of Ministers, the draft law on sexual and reproductive health and voluntary interruption of pregnancy, including a new social right for women: menstrual leave.

The measure will allow those who suffer from menstruation “disabling” (intense pain, cramps, colic, nausea, etc.), to have sick leave paid for by Social Security, after an initial medical consultation. If, in Asia, several countries such as Japan, South Korea or Indonesia have long granted menstrual leave, Spain could become the first country in Europe to adopt such a measure. “It is one of the most groundbreaking and defining issues of this coalition government, which is taking action to improve the lives [des femmes] »welcomed the Minister for Equality, from the radical left party Podemos.

Friction within the government

However, the draft law caused friction within the government. When the draft prepared by the Ministry of Equality was released to the press on Wednesday, May 11, the vice-president of the executive and minister of the economy, the socialist Nadia Calviño, had warned that the government was not going “never adopt measures that stigmatize women”.

“What stigmatizes is not having sufficient sensitivity to understand that men and women are different and that the world of work is not neutral”, retorted the second vice-president of the government and minister of labor, the communist Yolanda Diaz. The leader of the opposition, the president of the People’s Party (PP, right), Alberto Nuñez-Feijoo, got involved: “it is the doctor who gives [l’arrêt maladie]not the second vice-president of the government, against the wishes of the first vice-president”.

Until then, it was theoretically possible to request sick leave from one’s doctor in the event of painful periods, but the employee was only covered and paid from the fourth day of absence and on condition of accumulating 180 days of social security contributions over the last five years.

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