Could Czechia follow Spain's lead and offer women menstrual leave?

While Spain plans to introduce paid leave for women who suffer from severe period pain, the chances of Czechia enacting such a law are slim.

Kathrin Yaromich

Written by Kathrin Yaromich Published on 06.06.2022 12:30:00 (updated on 06.06.2022) Reading time: 3 minutes

Spain’s leftist coalition government is preparing a law that would cover sick leave for workers experiencing period pain. The draft law, which still has to pass through parliament, has sparked a debate in many places, including the Czech Republic.

The draft legislation is intended to ensure menstruation is treated as a proper health issue. Other parts of the bill would end VAT on menstrual products and allow between three and five days of leave each month for women who have incapacitating periods.

According to a study, the prevalence of dysmenorrhea, or painful menstruation, varies between 16% and 91% in women of reproductive age, with severe pain in 2%-29% of the women studied. Women's age, parity, and use of oral contraceptives were inversely associated with dysmenorrhea, and high stress increased the risk of dysmenorrhea.

“When there’s a problem that can’t be solved medically, we think it’s very sensible to have temporary sick leave,” Ángela Rodríguez, the secretary of state for equality, told El Periódico in March. She noted that while talking about a painful period, the coalition does not refer to slight discomfort, but serious symptoms, such as diarrhea, fever, and bad headaches.

Can menstrual leave be enacted in Czechia?

Czech politicians are rather skeptical about the introduction of paid leave for women during menstruation. Czech news server iDnes.cz asked Czech MPs and experts about the enactment of such a law.  

Olga Richterová, a member of the Pirates, emphasized the need to set the conditions correctly and fairly, otherwise a similar step could inadvertently contribute to increasing barriers to women's entry into the labor market. MPs Zdenka Němečková Crkvenjaš and ​​Martina Lisová warned that the law could damage the position of women in the labor market.

Do you support the enactment of the menstrual leave in the Czech Republic?

I am a woman and I am in favor 65 %
I am a man and I am in favor 20 %
I am a woman and I am against 5 %
I am a man and I am against 2 %
I identify as other and I am in favor 1 %
I identify as other and I am against 6 %
94 readers voted on this poll. Voting is open

SPD MP Karla Maříková does not support the menstrual leave and says women should deal with painful menstruation mainly with their gynecologist. She fears the consequences of mass menstrual leaves for employers and suggests that support for women can be in a form of employee bonuses, but not enshrined in legislation.

Experts also agreed that the law might bear discriminatory consequences for women.

According to the lawyer Šárka Homfray, the matter is further complicated by the Czech legal system, which does not consider a situation where a person may have a sudden short-term indisposition, such as a migraine, a severe allergy, or menstruation, but rather distinguishes them as either healthy or sick.

Despite the complexities of the menstrual leave enactment in the Czech Republic, Spanish law sets the agenda in the right direction by raising awareness of menstruation pains and normalizing the discussions around it. 

Around the world

Last year, a handful of local administrations in Spain were among the first in western Europe to recognize period pain and offer their employees menstrual leave.

In some Asian countries, menstrual leave has a long tradition. In Japan, where it was introduced after World War II, women have been able to take unpaid leave every month. Indonesian women have been able to take two days off a month since 2003. 

Among other countries offering menstrual leave are South Korea and Indonesia. In Taiwan, women have three days of menstrual leave a year. 

However, many women in these countries still prefer to use regular sick leaves, as taking the menstrual leave can be interpreted as a sign of weakness.

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