Should the UK allow menstrual leave?

Estimated read time 2 min read

A new menstrual leave bill in Spain allows women to take up to three days of menstrual leave a month, which will be paid for by the government. For individuals who have severe cramping, nausea, or even vomiting, the leave can be prolonged to five days.

This legislation is a component of a broader package on sexual and reproductive rights which now allows anyone aged 16 and over to obtain an abortion and to freely change their gender on ID cards.

The new regulation aims to dispel persistent beliefs and preconceptions about menstruation that negatively impact women’s lives.

Periods call for extra consideration, especially as symptoms typically return on each cycle. Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) is common among menstruating women and can have a detrimental effect on mental health.

Some women experience premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) a more severe form of PMS, or premenstrual exacerbation (PME), which is characterised by the same symptoms as PMS and occurs in the days before the start of their menstruation.  

Women in the UK suffering the mental health impacts menstrual pain or pain in general would have to use a sick day, often sacrificing a day’s pay. Statutory sick pay, the minimum amount employers must pay, is only paid if you fit the qualifying criteria.

Countries and regions such as Japan, Indonesia, South Korea, Taiwan, Vietnam, and Zambia, also offer menstrual leave.

Which raises the question of why can’t the UK offer menstrual leave, being the sixth-largest national economy?

Around 40% of women experience menstrual pain that interferes with their ability to work, but don’t want to lose out on pay.

Some people have voiced concern that menstrual leave could go against women as it might stigmatise them and make companies less likely to hire them.

Others see it as a ‘lightening rod’ for feminists. But in Spain the law is finally recognising the reality for women and how difficult working while bleeding actually is.

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