Italy set to offer 'menstrual leave' for female workers

Published On: April 2, 2017 04:26 PM NPT By: Agencies

MILAN, April 2: Italy could soon become the first Western country to offer paid “menstrual leave” to female workers.

The proposed law is currently being debated in the country’s parliament. If passed, it would mandate that companies enforce a “menstrual leave” policy and offer three paid days off each month to working women who experience painful periods.

Health experts and local media outlets have praised the proposal, saying it was a step in the right direction and would shed light on the silent plight of women suffering from debilitating cramps that can sometimes affect their ability to work.

The Italian version of Marie Claire described it as “a standard-bearer of progress and social sustainability.”

But the bill also has critics, including women who fear this sort of measure could backfire and end up stigmatizing them.

Writing in Donna Moderna, another women’s magazine, Lorenza Pleuteri argued that if women were granted extra paid leave, employers would be even more reluctant to hire women, in a country where women already struggle to integrate the workforce.

In fact, due to enduring cultural stereotypes, Italy has one of the lowest rates of female labor participation in the workforce , with a staggering one in four women getting fired just before or after getting pregnant, according to the Italian National Institute for Statistics.

Miriam Goi, a feminist writer, made a similar point in Vice Italy. She fears that rather than breaking taboos about women’s menstrual cycle, the measure could end up perpetuating the idea that women are more emotional than men and require special treatment.

The bill was presented to the lower house of Italy’ Parliament on March 13th and could become law in a matter of weeks.

Menstrual leave is already a legal right for women in other countries, includingSouth Korea and Japan, where it was made law 60 years ago. A number of private companies, including Nike, have also introduced a similar policy.

But experts still can't agree on whether menstrual cycles should constitute an economic and labour issue. A study by two Italian economists published in 2009 in the American Economic Journalconcluded that the “menstrual cycle increases female absenteeism” and that such absenteeism contributes to the wage gap between men and women. A subsequent study published in 2012 on the Journal of Human Resources found “no evidence of increased female absenteeism”.

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