Spain: Female workers to get monthly menstrual leave

A woman suffering from period pain. Female workers in Spain who experience severe period pains are set to benefit from a three-day menstrual leave every month.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Spain female workers who experience period pains are set to benefit from a three-day menstrual leave every month.
  • USAid study shows better menses care leads to improved outcomes in workplaces
  • The country's new law also proposes that educational institutions must provide feminine hygiene products when necessary.

Female workers in Spain who experience severe period pains are set to benefit from a three-day menstrual leave every month.

The reform is part of a set of proposals around reproductive health that the Spanish government is set to introduce.

Spain is expected to endorse the menstrual leave as part of a broader draft bill on reproductive health and abortion rights, details of which are set to be disclosed this week.

The country’s Equality Minister Irene Montero, last Friday said the government will recognise by law, the right of women with painful menstruation to a special temporary incapacity that the State will pay for from day one.

“We are making progress so that it is no longer normal to go to work in pain, and to put an end to the stigma, shame and silence surrounding menstruation. We are making progress on rights," Ms Montero said on Twitter.

In addition, the new law also proposes that educational institutions must provide feminine hygiene products when necessary.

According to the Spanish Gynaecology and Obstetrics Society, around a third of women who menstruate suffer from severe pain known as dysmenorrhea. Symptoms include acute abdominal pain, diarrhoea, headaches and fever.

The issue of menstruation and productivity has not only been the subject of discussion in Europe and other parts of the globe, but also in Kenya.

In December last year, the United States’ Agency for International Development (USAid) launched a study that showed improved Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM) in the workplace contributed to better outcomes for women and businesses in the country.

The study titled The Menstruation at Work: Improving Business Outcomes Study was undertaken in conjunction with Thika Cloth Mills and Shona EPZ Limited.

It showed improved MHM at Thika Cloth Mills and Shona EPZ Limited in Athi-River had resulted in reduced absenteeism, increased productivity and increased job satisfaction among others.

The nine-month study found an average of 110 hours of increased productivity per month, for a factory with 100 women employees.

Triple value

A cost benefit analysis by the project found that for every Sh100 a company spent on supporting MHM among its workers, it would possibly return more than double that investment in benefits.

The analysis also found that over two years, the benefits of providing improved MHM are over triple the value of the costs.

The study findings also indicated a factory with 100 women, providing adequate MHM is projected to reduce absences by 110 hours and reduce menstruation-related healthcare expenses by over Sh20,000 each month.

USAid’s Director of East Africa Health, Population and Nutrition John Kuehnle said the ground-breaking research should spur the private sector in the country to adapt their businesses to meet the needs of menstruating employees.

“We have learned, from this nine-month study, that not only do female employees benefit from improved hygiene conditions at work, but the business also benefits,” said Kuehnle.

He noted menstruation is often a source of shame, embarrassment and physical discomfort for employees, preventing them from going to work, affecting household income and the national economy overall.

“Although there has been a lot of research on school attendance related to menstruation, the menstrual health and hygiene of employees in workplaces has been overlooked at least until now,” he added.

Sanitary pads

The CEO of Shona EPZ Limited Isaac Maluki said through the project, his company has been providing women employees who comprise 86 per cent, with menstrual health products including sanitary pads, menstruation cups among others.

Mr Maluki added the company has also set aside a first aid room to cater for women who fall ill and need it during their menstruation.

“The results of the project have been impressive as the daily production target now stands at 1,600 pieces of garment from 670 pieces. We no longer have cases of women employees’ absenteeism and our women staff are happier, more confident and efficient. The company’s productivity has also gone up tremendously, which is good for the company,” he said. 

The CEO advised other companies to embrace the project for their female employees saying the benefits are enormous.

Thika Cloth Mills Managing Director Tejal Dodhia said her company has been providing sanity to the 50 female staff with sanitary pads every month which she revealed had improved attendance and increased productivity.

Joyce Nduku, a staff at Thika Cloth Mills said stigma associated with menstruation is a major challenge female workers face.

She called on firms to put up facilities and initiate programmes that will ensure women menstruate with dignity.

“We want to see our employees flourish in this company,” she said.

MHM policy

The Ministry of Health last year launched the country’s first MHM Policy and Strategy that provides an opportunity for prioritisation of its agenda in the country.

The policy sets out focus areas with the aim of mainstreaming MHM, strengthening partnerships and coordination, development and maintenance of Water sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) infrastructure.

It also focuses on the strengthening of MHM education and awareness, promoting advocacy and resource mobilisation, and establishing effective Monitoring and Evaluation systems for MHM.

The policy seeks to take a holistic approach around menstruation by putting more focus on tackling taboos and stigma that affect effective management of menstruation, product choices and suitable facilities for management and disposal solutions.

Kenya is the first country in the region to develop a standalone MHM policy and strategy.

Across the world, menstrual leave is currently offered only in a small number of countries including Japan, Taiwan, Indonesia, South Korea and Zambia.