Menstrual Leave in Spain Is Now A Reality

According to the British newspaper, menstrual leave in Spain, pioneered by Girona and Castellon de la Plana, will introduce a unique novelty in the workplace.

(The Guardian) A handful of local administrations have become among the first in western Europe to offer menstrual leave in Spain to their employees, in an attempt to strike a better balance between workplace demands and period pains.

At the end of the last year,  the Catalan city of Girona became the first in the country to consider flexible working arrangements for any employee experiencing discomfort due to periods. In June it announced a deal with its more than 1,300 municipal employees to allow women, trans men and non-binary individuals to take up to eight hours menstrual leave a month, with the caveat that any time used must be recovered within a span of three months.

“Girona is known for many things and I think today we’re adding a new item to the list as we pioneer the approval of menstrual leave in Spain,” the city’s deputy mayor, Maria Àngels Planas, said at the time. “We are eliminating the taboo that exists around menstruation and the pain that some women suffer – that we suffer – during menstruation.”

Soon afterwards the Catalan municipalities of Ripoll and Les Borges Blanques announced similar policies. In September the eastern Spanish city of Castellón de la Plana said it had signed an agreement with its 1,500 municipal workers that included a menstrual leave policy similar to Girona’s after requests from several employees.

Period policies have long been enshrined in law in many parts of Asia, often rooted in concerns that workplace demands could hinder women’s ability to bear children. In 2016 the Guardian spoke to several women in Japan and China who said they were reluctant to use the entitlement over fears that doing so would antagonise male colleagues or damage their chances of a promotion.

That same year Coexist, a social enterprise in Bristol, said it would become one of the first workplaces in the west to embrace menstrual leave, hoping to do away with an office culture that forced employees to choose between working while grappling with severe menstrual symptoms or using sick days or holiday.

The decision triggered global debate over the policy’s merits, even as managers at Coexist reported increased commitment and productivity, and research suggested as many as 14% of women had taken time off from work or school due to periods.

It was against this backdrop that the local workers union in Girona first proposed the measure. “There was a lot of controversy,” said Sílvia Rubio of the Intersindical-CSC union.

Union reps initially considered asking for up to two days of leave a month, but the idea was quashed owing to concerns that it might make employers more reluctant to hire women or give them decision-making roles. “To avoid any discrimination based on sex, we made it so that any hours used would be made up later,” said Rubio.

The negotiations with the city council proved another obstacle, forcing them to whittle down their initial request of 16 hours a month to eight hours.

But what surprised many of them was that the policy was also a tough sell among some of their colleagues. “There was a lot of conflict,” she said. “We had women who said: ‘My husband has migraines, why can’t he take this leave?’” Others worried the policy would stigmatise women or brand menstruation as something that is always painful.

Rubio responded by pointing to the wider picture. “We think it’s fantastic that we’ve achieved this. This is a women’s issue around the globe, there’s a lot of embarrassment around it and nobody is tackling it. We managed to do it,” she said. “But we don’t want the struggle to end here.”

Instead she saw the policy as a first step towards building a workplace culture that would allow greater flexibility to address needs ranging from chronic illness to care obligations. “All of this ends up being a journey to improve workplaces for both women and men, and in both the public and the private sector.”

Source: Ashifa Kassam – The Guardian

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