Spain is on its way to becoming the first European country to introduce a legal entitlement to medical leave for menstrual pain. The draft bill, which was leaked to the media, details the conditions of the leave. Employees will be given three days off as long as a doctor’s note is provided. This could potentially be extended to five days for intense pain. It is clear that this is not an automatic right to time off for those who menstruate – it will only apply to those whose period pains are particularly debilitating.
Should the UK follow suit?
Currently there is no specific entitlement for leave due to periods and employees are expected to use sick leave if they are unable to come in to work. According the period charity Bloody Good Period, more needs to be done by employers to understand and communicate the range of period related symptoms. In their research they have found that 73% of people who menstruate have struggled to complete their work as they would like due to their period pains.
Whilst period pains in of themselves are unlikely to be classified as a disability, as the definition of disability necessitates that the effects are ongoing for a year, certain conditions such as endometriosis may meet this definition. Therefore these issues should be treated sensitively by managers in order to avoid a tribunal claim for disability discrimination.
Because only females, and those assigned female at birth, are able to menstruate there is a potential for sex discrimination if the employee is put at a disadvantage because of a menstrual health issue. This kind of connection was demonstrated in the case of Rooney v Leicester City Council (2021) where a female employee alleged sex discrimination as she was treated negatively due to going through menopause. The same considerations would apply to those who suffer with severe period pain, and who need time off work to manage this.
If you have any questions on any of the issues mentioned in the above article, please contact Natalia Milne.