Italy could soon become the first country in Europe to offer menstrual leave to all female employees.
MPs have been debating a new bill which, if approved, would offer three days of paid leave every month for women suffering from painful periods.
The Italian edition of Marie Claire hailed the bill as “a standard-bearer of progress and social sustainability” but the proposal has proved controversial.
Italy has a much lower rate of female workers than the rest of Europe (only 61% of women in Italy work, compared to the European average of 72%) and there are fears the law could discourage employers from hiring women in the first place.
Speaking to the Washington Post, economist Daniela Piazzalunga said, “Women are already taking days off because of menstrual pains, but the new law would allow them to do so without using sick leaves 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.”
Italy already has a generous maternity leave policy, in which mothers must take a mandatory period of five months leave paid at 80% of her salary, but this seems to work against – rather than for – women in the workforce.
The Washington Post notes a report by ISTAT, Italy’s national bureau of statistics, which found that almost a quarter of pregnant women are fired either during or directly after their pregnancies, despite this being illegal.
The draft law for menstrual leave was put forward earlier this month by four female MPs, and could come into effect in a matter of months if approved.
Paid period pain leave is already in action in Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, Indonesia, and the Chinese province of Ningxia.