Italy set to offer paid menstrual leave

If all goes to plan, Italy will become the first country in Europe to offer paid menstrual leave to women suffering from period pain

menstrual cramps

Rome’s lower house of parliament has begun discussions on a draft law, hailed by Italian Marie Claire as a symbol of progress and social equality.

If approved, the policy will mean all companies in Italy will be ordered to allow women who suffer from painful periods an extra three days’ off a month.

But critics have pointed out that the measure may do nothing to boost Italy’s low female employment rate. Only 61% of Italian women work, compared to a European average of 72% (the UK stands at just over 69%).

Writing in women’s magazine Donna Moderna, commentator Lorenza Pleuteri said paid menstrual leave runs the risk that “employers could become even more oriented to hire men rather than women”.

If the law goes ahead, Italy would be amongst a few of the other countries that allow time off to women who experience this pain.

Piazza Navona, Rome. Italy
Currently, lawmakers in Rome are discussing the policy of paid menstrual leave in parliament

Menstrual leave has been a legal right for women in Japan since 1947, although the stigma associated with taking it still deters some women.

Taiwan, South Korea and Indonesia also have policies in place that mandate time off for females suffering from menstrual cramps.

But women, and the workforce at large, remain divided on the matter of creating a legal obligation for time off.

Some argue that, as well as being potentially invasive, the concept of menstrual leave could actually increase the gender pay gap.

“If we insist that one group or another has an extra set of costs associated with their employment then we’ll end up seeing the wages of that group fall relative to groups that don’t have those associated costs,” writes finance expert Tim Worstall in Forbes. “The provision of paid menstrual leave will act in exactly this manner.”

Amelia Costigan, director of nonprofit company Catalyst, sees paid menstrual leave as a form of “benevolent sexism”. She says companies should provide plenty of flex time to both men and women, without the need to know why they use it.

“If somebody has to manage their personal life that’s their personal life, and an organization should trust that person is going to get the work done and they’re accountable for it,” she said.

However there are those who welcome menstrual leave as an positive move towards happier, more productive teams.

“Menstrual leave is entirely optional, and fears that women would take advantage of the proposal are a little patronising – like we’re just waiting to be given the go-ahead to waste company time by scoffing chocolate and spontaneously crying at pictures of Eddie Redmayne, ” says Grazia writer Katie Rosseinsky. “As flexible working and healthier workspaces are becoming the norm, let’s hope that in a couple of years the idea of menstrual leave won’t seem headline-grabbing at all.”

This story first appeared on Grazia