Spain has approved a draft bill which, if it goes ahead, would mean Spain would be the first country in Europe to give female workers the right to paid menstrual leave. The draft bill sets out how women could have three days of leave a month - extended to five in some circumstances. We’ll hear from a Spanish lawyer on progress with that.
As the BBC reports, the Spanish legislation is part of a much wider set of health reforms which will include changes to the country's abortion laws, scrapping the requirement for 16 and 17-year-olds to obtain parental consent before terminating a pregnancy. There are also plans to impose tighter restrictions on surrogacy, which is already banned in Spain.
Sky News reports on the menstrual leave proposal and quotes Spain’s equality minister Irene Montero. In a tweet she confirmed that the leave will not need to be financed by employers, rather it would be paid by the state. While some described the policy as long overdue, others have cautioned against it. Cristina Antonanzas, deputy secretary of UGT, one of the country's largest trade unions, is quoted saying you have to be careful with this type of decision because, in her view, the move could indirectly impact women's access to the labour market. However, as Sky News reports, Spain’s other major trade union, has said the proposed measure was ‘justified’ if period pain prevents a woman from working, and called it a major ‘legislative advance’ that will recognise a health problem that has been ‘ignored’ until now.
So, let’s get a view on this from one of our Spanish lawyers, Beatriz Moriones who is based in Madrid. I started by asking her to explain the proposal:
Beatriz Moriones: “The government has a draft law which entitles a woman to have paid period leave for a painful menstruation for three days per month, and in special occasions with some illnesses that cause a harmful period, to have even five days per month of paid leave.”
Joe Glavina: “Some people in Spain have described the policy as long overdue and they welcome it, but others have cautioned against it. What’s the concern?”
Beatriz Moriones: “Well, they are concerned about two things. There is already permission when you have some pain or you have illness to take time off when they are ill - so that is something that already exists. The difference is that for common conditions in Spanish law the first three days are not paid by either the company or the Social Security but in this case the first three days are going to be paid from the first day. The other thing they are concerned about is that it's something that can cause some discrimination. The government has drafted the legislation in a way to avoid the discrimination in that it's going to be paid from the government so it’s not an economic cost for the company to have the woman taking this period leave but I think, actually, you are going to have some employees every month, for three days or even five days, they will not be able to provide services to you. So maybe it's not an economic cost, but it's something that the employer is going to have in mind. So, I think that there are some people concerned that this leave will give rise to discrimination to the woman in employment.”
Joe Glavina: “Would women wanting to take leave need to produce a doctor’s certificate?”
Beatriz Moriones: “Yes well as this is still a draft it states that they will need a medical certificate, but we don't really know if it's going to be by just one certificate to take this leave every month, or it’s going to need one every month, because here in Spain, even if you have an illness to start illness leave, you need a medical certificate. So, it's just not clear if you're going to have to ask for it every month, or it's going to be something easier to do.”
Joe Glavina: “What’s your guess as to whether the Spanish parliament will approve this proposed new law?”
Beatriz Moriones: “I think, and the people in the sector think, this is going to be approved, maybe with some amendments to it, but I think it's going to be approved because it's the first country that it's very close to approving and so I think this government is going to do it. But I really think that they are going to have to change some things in the draft and, maybe, when once it's approved, actually, is going to be a little different but we don’t know, we’ll have to wait for it.”
Beatriz is based in Madrid and is part of the Spanish Employment & Reward team which regularly make appearances in this programme. You can access all of those programmes, and follow all the latest developments from Spain, by vising the Outlaw website. Simply type ‘Spain’ in the search box in the top right-hand corner of the web page.