Spain has become the first European country to allow women to take medical leave for being on their period.
The Spanish government passed the ‘period pain’ law on Thursday, allowing women to stay at home for a few hours during the working day or take medical leave if pain prevents them from working.
The new law, which passed by 185 votes in favour to 154 against, recognises menstrual health as part of the country’s right to gender equality in health.
“The rule is going to stop being a taboo,” Minister for Equality Irene Montero said.
Menstrual leave is currently offered only in a small number of countries around the world, including Japan, Indonesia, Zambia, South Korea and Taiwan.
The length of sick leave that Spanish doctors will be able to grant to women suffering from painful periods has not been specified in the new law.
About a third of women who menstruate suffer from severe pain, according to the Spanish Gynaecology and Obstetrics Society.
The measure created divisions among both politicians and unions, with the UGT, one of Spain’s largest trade unions, warning it could stigmatise women in the workplace and favour the recruitment of men.
The main opposition, conservative Popular Party (PP), also warned the law risks ‘stigmatising’ women and could have ‘negative consequences in the labour market’ for them.
‘Menstrual leave’ is one of the key measures in the broader legislation, which also provides for increased access to abortion in public hospitals.