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UK charities are asking the government to bring in paid leave for women who have to take time off work due to painful periods. This cry has been prompted by the actions of our continental cousin, Spain, where draft legislation has been approved which will allow Spanish women to have three paid days off per month if they have painful periods. The legislation has not yet passed, but if it does, it will be the first country in Europe to offer this kind of leave. The leave will require a doctor’s note and will be paid for by the state rather than employers.

Currently, women in the UK must use normal sick leave if they need to have time off due to their periods. The BBC refers to studies showing that 4 out of 5 women have painful periods. The issue is particularly relevant for women with endometriosis (a debilitating long-term condition where tissue similar to the lining of the uterus grows in other places like the ovaries and fallopian tubes, causing excruciating pain) or other issues which make periods particularly painful. 

We will have to wait to see whether menstrual leave will be adopted in Spain and whether the trend will spread throughout Europe. But employers don’t need to wait for the law to change to be sympathetic to women with painful periods. Managers should be trained in having sensitive conversations with staff on all medical issues, including periods, and sick leave policies applied if someone is too sick to work. It is also important to break the taboo on talking about periods. A few years ago, it was unheard of to mention menopause, least of all at work. Now women are empowered to share their menopause experiences and workplace menopause policies are commonplace. Creating a similar culture of openness and understanding around periods may result in less, rather than more, period-related absence.

Find out how we can help.  Our partner, Jon Dunkley, heads the Wollens specialist Employment Department.  Contact him today for an informal chat, without obligation on 01271 342268 or via email at jon.dunkley@wollens.co.uk.