West indian countries

LIST: Countries that provide paid menstrual leave

Photo by Polina Zimmerman

PARIS, France – Many women have painful periods, but only a few countries in the world, mainly in Asia, allow them time off from work to recuperate.

Spain is aiming to become the first Western country to follow their lead, with a bill unveiled by the government on Tuesday giving women unlimited leave for menstrual pain, provided they have a doctor’s note.

The proposal comes amid a campaign by feminists around the world to smash taboos around menstruation, but it has drawn criticism from Spanish unions, who warn that, far from liberating women, menstrual leave could incentivize employers to give priority to men when hiring.

Here’s an overview of how it works in other countries:

Indonesia

Indonesia passed a law in 2003 granting women the right to two days of paid menstrual leave per month, without notice.

But the provision is in practice discretionary.

Many employers only allow one day per month, while others don’t allow menstrual leave at all, either because they don’t know the law or because they choose to ignore it.

A 2003 International Labor Organization report warned that requiring women to be given 24 days of menstrual leave on top of their 12 days of annual leave was a “significant cost” to many employers, forcing them to discriminate against women in their hiring policy.

Japan

In Japan, a law dating back to 1947 states that companies must agree to give menstrual leave to women if they ask for it, for as long as they need it.

It does not, however, require them to pay women during menstrual leave, but about 30% of Japanese companies offer full or partial pay, according to a 2020 Labor Ministry survey.

However, few women take advantage of the law. The survey of around 6,000 companies found that only 0.9% of eligible workers had taken menstrual leave.

South Korea

In South Korea, women are entitled to one day of unpaid menstrual leave per month, employers who refuse face fines of up to 5 million won ($3,910).

The leave was paid until 2004, when South Korea reduced the six-day workweek to five days.

A 2018 survey showed higher participation than in Japan, with just over 19% of women taking time off. But many said they chose not to, due to conservative or unfavorable work environments.

Taiwan

In Taiwan, the Gender Equality in Employment Law grants women three days of menstrual leave per year, which is not deducted from the statutory 30 days of sick leave.

Women can only take one day per month.

As with sick leave, workers on menstrual leave receive only 50% of their salary.

Zambia

Zambia was the envy of other African countries when it passed a law in 2015 allowing women to take a day off during their periods, without prior notice or a medical certificate.

While the measure is generally accepted and supported, not all employers willingly comply with the law on what is quietly called “Mother’s Day”.

But encouraged by unions, women are beginning to exercise their rights, Ruth Kanyanga Kamwi, a communications expert and women’s rights advocate, told AFP.

Australia, India, France: companies are leading the way

Some companies did not wait to be forced by law to offer women menstrual leave.

These include the Victorian Women’s Trust, an Australian gender equality agency, which provides employees with 12 days of menstrual and menopause leave; Indian food delivery startup Zomato, which offers 10 days of periodic leave; and the French cooperative La Collective, which grants staff up to one periodic day off per month.

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© Agence France-Presse


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