Italy could become the first European country to give women paid menstrual leave

<i>Periods can cause severe pain. But should women be allowed to take paid leave every month [Photo: Getty]</i>
Periods can cause severe pain. But should women be allowed to take paid leave every month [Photo: Getty]

Italy could become the first country in Europe to offer menstrual leave to all female employees.

Italian MPs have been debating a new bill which seeks to give women who suffer from painful periods three days of paid leave every month.

If approved, the new rule could come into effect in the next few months. Of course, this has proved controversial with claims of discrimination coming to the forefront.

Although this seems like a triumph for women, one economist believes it could backfire. “Women are already taking days off because of menstrual pains, but the new law would allow them to do so without using sick leave or other permits. The demand for female employees among companies might decrease, or women could be further penalised both in terms of salary and career advancement,” Daniela Piazzalunga told the Washington Post.

The law could also reinforce “stereotypes about women being more emotional during their periods,” noted one Vice Italy writer.

<i>Italy looks set to become the first European country to offer paid period leave [Photo: Getty]</i>
Italy looks set to become the first European country to offer paid period leave [Photo: Getty]

Statistics do appear to show that Italian women may suffer rather than benefit. Only 61% of women work in the country – compared to the European average of 72% – with almost a quarter of women being fired either during or directly after their pregnancies.

Women may therefore be inclined to refuse the offer for the sake of keeping their jobs, rendering the potential new law useless.

Japan and South Korea already beat Italy to the post, passing similar laws as far back as 1947. Some major companies including Nike have also started introducing menstrual leave for female staff.

Last year, Coexist became the first UK-based company to offer women period leave, believing that women should be allowed to take time off when they feel ill during their monthly period.

The British government has never debated such a topic even though several leading medical experts agree that severe period pain (a condition called dysmenorrhea which only 10% of people suffer from) could make employees “less productive”.

However, the same fear in Britain exists that women could receive a major backlash if paid period leave was granted. “It feels like a Victorian-era policy when women were denied opportunities because men labelled women as the fairer or weaker sex due to simple biology,” stated women’s rights charity director, Amelia Costigan.

Instead, she advises a more flexible workplace that “respects an employee’s need to balance their work and their personal life” as well as removing potential feelings of resentment.

What do you think about this new policy? Do you believe the UK should follow suit and give women paid period leave every month?

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