Italy could soon become the first Western country to offer women paid menstrual leave — but whether or not this would have a positive or negative impact women in the workplace is unclear.
According to The Independent, the lower house of Italy’s parliament is “considering a proposal for a law” that would require companies to allow female employees to take three days of paid leave each month if they experience “painful periods.” The law could be approved in the coming months.
The move would have a massive impact on women who deal with debilitating cramps, preventing them from needing to take time from their standard sick leave.
China, Japan, and South Korea currently boast similar laws, and some companies, such as Nike or Bristol-based firm Coexist, have introduced similar policies for staff.
Concerns law could be a backwards step
The Italian version of Marie Claire magazine called the news “a standard-bearer of progress and social sustainability,” but the new law, which was put forward by four female MPs from the centre-left Democratic Party, could present problems.
Some are concerned that if women are taking extra days of paid leave, it could encourage companies to hire more men. In Italy, only 61% of women work — below the European average of 72%.
In Asian countries like Japan, women are also often afraid to take their paid menstrual leave due to social stigma, according to The Guardian.
Daniela Piazzalunga, an economist at research institute FBK-IRVAPP, told the Washington Post: “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.
“However, on the other hand I wouldn’t exclude that [if the law is approved] this would lead to negative repercussions: The demand for female employees among companies might decrease, or women could be further penalised both in terms of salary and career advancement.”
According to The Independent, Italy currently offers five months of mandatory paid maternity leave with 80% salary. Afterwards, six months of parental leave is offered to both genders paid at 30% of their salary.
However, a report by Italy’s national bureau of statistics, ISTAT, found that nearly a quarter of pregnant workers are fired during or right after their pregnancies, even though this is illegal.
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