Spain could become the first country in Europe to guarantee workers the right to menstrual leave.
A new proposal package on its way to the Spanish parliament includes a three-day medical leave per month for female workers who experience severe period pain.
The benefit would be offered as a form of sick leave.
Employers would not be responsible for the paid leave. Instead, the benefit would be funded by the state social security program. Those claiming the leave would need approval from a doctor as is required for other issues that cause temporary medical incapacity.
Period pain “cannot be solved medically,” said Angela Rodriguez, Spain’s Secretary of State for Equality and Against Gender Violence, during an interview in March with the newspaper El Periodico.
“We believe that it is very sensible that there is a temporary disability associated with this issue,” Rodriquez said.
“It’s important to be clear about what we mean by painful period,” she added. “We’re not talking about a slight discomfort, but about serious symptoms such as diarrhea, fever and bad headaches.”
Additionally, the bill would require public institutions such as prisons and schools to provide menstrual products, like pads and tampons, in order to combat “menstrual poverty,” reports CNBC.
“The days of [women] going to work in pain are over,” Spanish Equality Minister Irene Montero said in a statement.
Montero had advocated for ending the sales tax applied to menstrual products but that proposal was not included in the final proposal package.
Cristina Antonanzas, the deputy secretary of the trade union UGT, urged caution when considering the bill. Antonanzas warned its passage could ultimately impact “women’s access to the labor market”.
“I don’t know if it does us women a disservice,” she said during a radio interview.
Additionally, the package includes a proposal ending the parental consent requirement for 16- and 17-year-olds seeking abortions. Lawmakers are seeking to end the three-day waiting period required for women seeking abortions.
Abortion is permitted in Spain through the 14th week of pregnancy.
Legislators are also seeking to expand access to birth control by including a proposal that would make contraception, including the morning-after pill, free. Currently, the morning after pill costs about $21 at Spanish pharmacies.
A spokeswoman for the federal government said the policy reflected “a new step forward for women, a new step forward for democracy.”
The policy is supported by the “United We Can” Party, a left-wing, Socialist-led coalition, per AP News.
Female workers in Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Indonesia and Zambia are already granted menstrual leave.