New Paid Sick Leave in Spain Alleviates Pain

Employers, do you have that employee who is regularly out sick at the same time each month? Whether you noticed this or not, many women have to take sick days from work due to painful periods.

Spain recognizes the need here. Women in Spain now have the right to three days of menstrual leave a month — with the option of extending it to five days — if they experience painful periods. Yes, Spain became the first European country to entitle workers to paid menstrual leave under its new sexual and reproductive rights laws.

Who is paying for the leave? Not employers, but the government, according to The Washington Post.

According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, more than half of menstruating women experience pain for one or two days every month. For some, the pain is so severe that they are unable to perform normal activities for several days.

Sick leave for excruciating pain that half of employees experience is compassionate and sensible — especially when half of a workforce experiences that pain each month.

Image by unknownuserpanama from Pixabay

As most know, the U.S. does not have a federal paid sick leave law. Sure, employees may avail themselves of unpaid sick time under certain circumstances. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provides for up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for “serious health conditions” for either an employee or a member of the employee’s immediate family. In many instances paid leave may be substituted for unpaid FMLA leave.

However, the FMLA only applies if a company has 50+ employees. And, an employee can only utilize FMLA leave if the employee has worked for the company for 12 months and at least 1,250 hours. The excruciating pain that may attend an employee’s menstruation may not be considered a “serious health condition.”

Paid sick leave continues to be a less-than-common benefit in states and localities that do not mandate it.

Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, D.C., Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington have mandatory paid sick leave laws. Maine and Nevada have laws requiring accrued paid time off not limited to sick time.

While multi-state employers have long grappled with managing the patchwork of varying state leave laws, since the pandemic and increase of remote or hybrid work, more and more employers must consider how to provide sick leave to some and not others or simply choosing a generous paid leave law for all.

But what about small businesses that cannot afford to provide paid sick leave? This is where Spain’s new laws shine – Spain provides government-subsidized paid menstrual leave.

At least half of Spain’s employees will be thankful, and employers in Spain might just see less attrition as their female employees can take paid leave without worrying about a pay cut.

That just seems like good business. Period.

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Amy Epstein Gluck

Amy Epstein Gluck has represented individuals and corporate clients in Virginia, Washington, D.C., and various federal district courts for more than twenty years. Ms. Epstein Gluck’s current practice areas include employment law—advising on and drafting employment agreements; handling employment negotiations, severance agreements, noncompete and nondisclosure agreements, “wrongful terminations” and other EEO matters; representation at the EEOC level; advising employers about discrimination laws and how to remain in compliance, and employment negotiations.