Menstrual leave: How Spain’s local administrations are leading the way

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Menstrual leave
Photo by Sasun Bughdaryan on Unsplash

Some local administrations in Spain have become among the first in Western Europe to offer menstrual leave to their employees, as an acknowledgement of the need to balance workplace demands and the pain that can come from periods.

In June 2021, the Catalan city of Girona became the first in the country to consider offering flexible working arrangements for any employee experiencing discomfort from having their period. It then announced a deal with its more than 1,300 municipal employees to allow women, trans men and non-binary individuals to take up to eight hours of menstrual leave a month, with the caveat that any time used must be recovered within a span of three months, reports The Guardian.

“Girona is known for many things and I think today we’re adding a new item to the list as we pioneer the approval of menstrual leave,” the city’s deputy mayor, Maria Àngels Planas, said at the time. “We are eliminating the taboo that exists around menstruation and the pain that some women suffer – that we suffer – during menstruation.”

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This then paved the way for other municipalities to implement similar policies. Ripoll and Les Borges, both also within Catalonia have announced menstrual leave schemes, and in September, the city of Castellón de la Plana said it had signed an agreement with its 1,500 municipal workers after requests from several employees.

The measure was not immediately welcomed when it was first discussed. “There was a lot of controversy,” said Sílvia Rubio of the Intersindical-CSC union.

Union reps initially considered asking for up to two days of leave a month, but the idea was quashed owing to concerns that it might make employers more reluctant to hire women or give them decision-making roles. “To avoid any discrimination based on sex, we made it so that any hours used would be made up later,” said Rubio when speaking to The Guardian. They also had to compromise when negotiating with the city council, moving their request from 16 hours down to eight.


Rubio responded by pointing to the wider picture. “We think it’s fantastic that we’ve achieved this. This is a women’s issue around the globe, there’s a lot of embarrassment around it and nobody is tackling it. We managed to do it,” she said. “But we don’t want the struggle to end here.”

Instead, she saw the menstrual leave policy as a first step towards making workplaces more welcoming and supportive for everyone. “All of this ends up being a journey to improve workplaces for both women and men, and in both the public and the private sector.”


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