Recently, Spain became the first country in the history of Europe to grant menstrual leave to women. The legislation aims at offering women experiencing painful periods to see paid leave from work. The legislation stems from Spain's larger plan around sexual and reproductive rights. The law was passed with 185 votes against 154 votes. It looks to grant a three-day menstrual leave, which can be extended to five days in cases of women who experience tremendous cramps and other effects including vomiting and dizziness.
Menstruation has long been taboo in several countries even today despite the enormous amount of awareness campaigns, debates and nationwide discussions held around the topic. Despite the efforts, what remains is a restricted understanding of the subject and the experiences of women across the globe being limited to a box. Ask women and they'll tell you that every experience is different from the other.
As Spain leads the course of change with respect to the menstrual leave grant, let's take a look at where other countries stand currently in this regard.
Countries With Menstrual Leave
There's presently no law designed around menstrual leave in India. As far as Indian states are concerned, since 1992, Bihar is the only state with government-sanctioned menstrual leaves where women can take two consecutive off days from work every month apart from the regular leave plan designed.
In the latest update, the Supreme Court of India is all set to hear a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed for female students and women workers across the country seeking menstrual leave grants. The hearing is scheduled for February 24, 2023. According to Live Law, advocate Shailendra Mani T has filed the much-awaited integral petition.
Going beyond the approval of the government-sanctioned policy, a few companies in India have formulated their own policies, including menstrual leaves for their female employees. Companies like Zomato, Byju's, Swiggy and Culture Magazine offer their female employees menstrual leaves.
Japan's legislation around menstrual leaves dates back over seven decades. In 1947, the government of Japan ruled that all employers were required to offer their female employees menstrual leaves as long as the latter seek them. While the employers were not obliged to pay their female employers on menstrual leave for the entire leave period, a 2020 government survey revealed that over 30 percent of firms in Japan offer partial or full pay to their female employees in this regard.
This South East Asian country in a 2003 ruling stated that women would be eligible for a two-day paid menstrual leave per month and would not require to give a notice in advance. There is, however, a larger debate in the country for the past decade citing the relevance of the law since several firms do not follow the legislation entirely.
According to a report generated by the International Labour Organisation, this law often brought with it discriminatory behaviour against women in their respective workplaces. Companies stated that women receiving two days of paid leave every month apart from their regular leaves costs the workplace. Therefore, looking at this, it is hard to say whether or not the law originally established by the government of Indonesia is implemented in its entirely or not.
The menstrual leave policy in South Korea is aligned in a way that women are able to seek one day of paid leave as and when they require one during their periods. However, as per law, women are granted additional pay if they do not access their menstrual leave for a certain month. The law also looks to monetarily punish those firms which do not abide by the policy.
Just like in Indonesia, however, women in South Korea do not access their leaves often owing to the hostility they face at the workplace.
The Taiwan Act around Gender Equality in Employment aims at providing women with the right to take one day off every month as a menstrual leave. This leave is excluded from the 30 days of sick leave throughout the year. Women in the workforce in this country are only allowed to take one day of leave per month at half their regular wage salary.
Vietnamese law added the menstrual leave grant in this 2020 reform policy. This law enables women to seek three days of menstrual leave from their workplace.
In 2015, Zambia ruled that women will be able to seek one day of leave every month without giving notice or presenting a medical certificate.
Countries including Australia and France do not have a paid-leave policy for menstrual leave under the government action law, however, it is up to the companies to internally design their own leave policies around the same. For example, an Australian gender-equality organisation called the Victorian Women's Trust offers its employees twelve days of menstrual or menopause leave. Another French cooperative called La Collective also offers its female employees one day of period leave per month.
Suggested reading: Spain Becomes The First European Country To Provide Menstrual Leave