Women with period pain will be given paid 'menstrual leave' in Spain

Women with period pain will be given as much paid ‘menstrual leave’ as they need under new laws approved in Spain

  • Spanish women will be entitled to sick leave for painful periods under new law
  • Read more: Could your relationship survive without sex?  

Spanish women are the first in Europe to be able to take time off work for severe period pain as legislation is passed to allow additional sick leave.  

The law, which passed by 185 votes in favour to 154 against, is aimed at breaking a taboo on the subject, the government said.

Menstrual leave is currently offered only in a small number of countries across the globe, including Japan, Indonesia and Zambia.

‘It is a historic day for feminist progress,’ Equality Minister Irene Montero tweeted ahead of votes on a number of feminist-inspired pieces of legislation.  

The law entitles workers experiencing period pain to as much time off as they need, with the state social security system – not employers – picking up the tab for the sick leave.

As with paid leave for other health reasons, a doctor must approve the temporary medical incapacity.

Spanish government is due to pass new reproductive health measures, one of which is aimed at allowing women time off work when experiencing menstrual pain for up to three days

Minister for Equality Irene Montero said it was a ‘historic day in the progress of feminist rights’ as a number of laws were passed

The length of sick leave that doctors will be able to grant to women suffering from painful periods has not been specified in the new law.

About a third of women who menstruate suffer from severe pain, according to the Spanish Gynaecology and Obstetrics Society.

Which countries offer period leave?


Two days per cycle 


As long as the person needs, but unpaid

South Korea:

One day a month, but unpaid


Three days a year, but no more than one day in a single month


One day a month, known as ‘Mother’s Day’

Some companies in other countries, including France and Australia, offer menstrual days as perks for employees.  

The measure has created divisions among both politicians and unions, with the UGT, one of Spain’s largest trade unions, warning it could stigmatise women in the workplace and favour the recruitment of men.

The main opposition, conservative Popular Party (PP), also warned the law risks ‘stigmatising’ women and could have ‘negative consequences in the labour market’ for them.

‘Menstrual leave’ is one of the key measures in the broader legislation, which also provides for increased access to abortion in public hospitals.

Less than 15 per cent of abortions performed in the country take place in such institutions, mainly because of conscientious objections by doctors.

The new law also allows minors to have abortions without parental permission at 16 and 17 years of age, reversing a requirement introduced by a previous conservative government in 2015.

It was introduced on March 3, 2022 and former Minister for Equality Ángela Rodríguez said it was past time for a discussion on reproductive health. 

‘The rights related to menstrual health have never been discussed and the data is chilling,’ Rodríguez told El Periodico. 

‘One in four women cannot choose the feminine hygiene products she wants to buy for financial reasons. That is why we propose that they can be dispensed free of charge in educational and social centres.’

Spain, a European leader in women’s rights, decriminalised abortion in 1985. 

In 2010, it passed a law that allows women to opt freely for abortion during the first 14 weeks of pregnancy in most cases.

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