Menstrual leave – for or against?

by May 24, 2022

Menstrual leave policy

Workplace policies that support women specifically can end up having the reverse effect, so what about menstrual leave?


Spain became the first European country to approve a bill at the Cabinet level that grants paid medical leave for women who suffer from severe period pain. Equality Minister Irene Montero said the law will recognise a health problem that has been largely swept under the carpet until now.

The legislation would make Spain the first Western country to adopt this policy. Japan and South Korea offer period leave, as well as individual companies such as Indian food-delivery service Zomato – have also introduced period leave policies.

The legislation still has to be approved by the Spanish parliament, sometime later this year. It is not clear whether Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez’s minority coalition government, which has made women’s rights a priority, has enough support in the assembly to pass it.


menstrual leave

Menstrual leave policy

The draft bill suggests as far as I can make out that the three-day sick leave for painful periods will be permitted on receipt of a medical certificate. Three days could be potentially extended to five on a temporary basis in serious or incapacitating cases. But it is not expected to apply to those who suffer mild discomfort.

As with paid leave for other health reasons, a doctor must approve the temporary medical incapacity. The state social security system — not employers — covers the cost of this sick leave.

So you might have a cold or stomach flu – OK no problem, take a sick day. But period pains have to be declared separately. Do we need to think about that?

Embedding stereotypes

One of my concerns about this policy is that it can serve to reinforce and embed stereotypes and gender expectations even further. Women who are having their periods are already perceived to be emotional, moody, short tempered, hormonal, irrational, and unreliable.  Women are already the butt of office jokes and any pushback or strong response can produce comments about a woman being on her period.

Another and slightly creepier spin-off would be that managers and colleagues would be able to track a woman’s cycle.

Worth a read: Why women suffer from gender burnout – 3 Plus International

Further marginalisation

Workplace policies that support women specifically can end up having the reverse effect and marginalize them even further as we have learned to our detriment. I can imagine situations where hiring processes and promotions may factor in a woman’s monthly menstrual leave patterns in their decisions. Can you imagine the bias in the hiring process of women who only may potentially get pregnant, but could lose 3-5 days every month because of their periods?

A better option would be to offer sick leave for all which gives employees the option to take time off for recovery without fear of repercussions, whether for period cramps, stomach flu, or back ache.

I am starting to fall on the side of incorporating this type of leave into general sick leave. That leaves the question of who would then pick up the tab?  State, health insurance, or employer

What are your views on this?

🎯A step forward?
🎯Embeds bias and stereotype even further?
🎯Better sick leave should be available for all?


“If you have a brain you have a bias” and nowhere is this more apparent than in our hiring processes.

How to mitigate bias in the recruitment process by 3Plus International






Dorothy Dalton Administrator
Dorothy Dalton is CEO of 3Plus International. A specialist in diversity and bias conscious executive search, she supports organizations to achieve business success via gender balance, diversity and inclusion. She is CIPD qualified, and a certified coach and trainer including digital learning.
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