The lower house of the Spanish Parliament has approved a bill that would grant paid medical leave to women who suffer from severe period pain, becoming the first European country to advance this type of legislation. The text was adopted on its first reading, with 190 votes in favour, 154 against, and 5 abstentions. It will now go to the Senate and, if changed, will return to the lower house for another vote before becoming law.
The legislation entitles workers experiencing period pain to as much time off as they need, with the state’s social security system – and not employers – picking up the tab. As with paid leave for other health reasons, it must be approved by a doctor. Spanish Equality Minister Irene Montero hailed the move as a step forward in addressing a health problem that has been largely swept under the carpet until now. She said the best path for employers to take would be to encourage women to meet with their doctor to get a medical diagnosis for their pain.
So clearly the UK is some way behind Spain on this 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 corner of the web page.