135 work leaves due to menstrual pain provided since regulation introduced last June

Doctors say having this right breaks taboos but warn it does not reach all women with incapacitating periods

Reusable menstrual products provided by the Catalan government
Reusable menstrual products provided by the Catalan government / Maria Aladern
Catalan News

Catalan News | @catalannews | Barcelona

April 1, 2024 11:46 AM

April 1, 2024 12:16 PM

On June 1, 2023, the right to request leave from work due to menstrual pain came into force across Spain.

From that date until February, 135 such work leaves permits have been registered in Catalonia. Throughout all of Spain, there have been a total of 1,324 such sick leaves.

The law permitting leave of absence from work due to incapacitating menstrual pain does not establish a series of specific requirements, but rather it is the general practitioner who determines whether the pain is incapacitating, as well as the duration of the absence from work, as is the case with many common illnesses.Speaking to the Catalan News Agency (ACN), Dr. Alba Martínez, a family doctor at the Passeig de Sant Joan Primary Care Center (CAP), welcomes the fact that "taboos" about menstruation are beginning to be broken but warns that the overall number is very small. "Surely more are needed than are given", she points out.

Dr. Elena Carreras, the head of Obstetrics and Reproductive Gynecology of Vall d'Hebron Hospital in Barcelona, hails the importance of the measure that paves a new way forward for women in an interview with ACN.

Dr. Carreras, says that for women with this incapacitating pain "it was already more than justified" to take leave before the measure. However, she also points out that "it is not the same to take general leave for not feeling well as to have the right to take leave due to debilitating periods."

"There are many people who do not know that they have this right"

Martínez considers that the number of leaves given so far is "very low" and believes that "there are many people who do not know that they are entitled to this leave." She also attributes the data to the "fear" of losing their job, or that colleagues will look at them "badly."

The family doctor says that most of the women who request this leave are young and have stable jobs. Martínez regrets that "those who would need it the most are those who know the least or those least able to access the system," giving the example of a care worker who looks after an elderly person and works six or seven days a week.

Average of 3.16 days

The average duration of period pain sick leave is 3.16 days, according to ministry data checked by the Catalan News Agency.

In the case of the women treated by Dr. Martínez, they usually ask for leave for a single day or, at most, for two. She says that it is the patient women themselves who know best their own bodies, and most tell them the pain is only one day, or that they know to expect it for two days.

Nevertheless, she admits that women "always" ask for the permission with "reluctance," since, although it is a right, "they are afraid that at work they will think that they are exaggerating."

The doctor denounces the "banalization" and "normalization" of period pain and regrets that society teaches women from an early age that suffering is normal. "When women complain of pain, it's said they exaggerate, they are hysterical or they are nervous, and that doesn't happen when it's men who complain of pain."