Painful cramps, nausea, diarrhea - some women are so severely affected by the accompanying symptoms of their menstruation that they have to struggle through the working week every month or have to call in sick regularly.

However, the reason for their sick leave is mostly kept secret.

Menstruation is still fraught with shame, and the subject is often taboo in professional working environments.

Being able to stay away from work when the pain gets too bad, and without having to think of a reason for the absence, is something that workers in Spain have been able to dream of since this week: the country wants to be the first in Europe to introduce paid so-called menstrual leave .

Natalia Wenzel Warkentin

Editor on duty at FAZ.NET.

  • Follow I follow

A corresponding draft law was officially presented there this week and approved by the cabinet.

In the future, Spanish women will be allowed to stay at home for at least three and a maximum of five days a month.

However, they have to have their complaints confirmed by a doctor – so in the end the path leads to the usual sick leave.

Symbolic politics, some criticize.

An important step towards destigmatizing the female cycle, praise the others.

Only a handful of countries already offer women workers similar regulations.

They concentrate primarily on the Asian region.

Indonesia, Taiwan or South Korea have laws on menstrual leave.

Italy discussed it in 2017, but the draft failed.

A similar law has been in effect in Japan since 1947, but a recent survey from this year shows that only 10 percent of female employees actually take their vacation.

Many fear professional disadvantages and stigmatization.

A large-scale Dutch study from 2019 showed that 80 percent of the 30,000 respondents felt their productivity was restricted during menstruation.

Although most said they regularly suffered from ailments, only 14 percent actually stayed away from work for at least one day.

“We can use the day as we like”

There is no specific debate in Germany about menstrual leave.

A law on additional, paid vacation days would even violate the Equal Treatment Act in this country.

But here too there are a few companies that have introduced their own regulations on this topic and are copying corporations like Nike.

The so-called menstrual leave has existed there since 2007 in the company's internal code of conduct.

Most other companies with similar offers are young start-ups that see menstrual leave as a benefit for employees - Everdrop from Munich, for example, who produce sustainable household funds.