Paris: Italy might soon become the first Western country with an official “menstrual leave” policy for working women. Italy might soon become the first Western country with an official “menstrual leave” policy for working women. The lower house of Italy’s parliament has started discussing a draft law that, if approved, will mandate companies to grant three days of paid leave each month to female employees who experience painful periods.
The proposed law was hailed by some local media outlets as a positive step to help working women who suffer from cramps. The Italian edition of women’s magazine Marie Claire described it as “a standard-bearer of progress and social sustainability”. But the bill has also its critics, even among the working woman it seeks to protect.
Some fear that the law might backfire, penalising women in a country where they are already struggling to participate in the workforce. If women were granted extra days of paid leave, wrote Lorenza Pleuteri in Donna Moderna, another women’s magazine, “employers could become even more oriented to hire men rather than women”.
On paper, Italy has female-friendly labour laws. Five months of paid maternity leave are mandatory both for employers and employees, meaning that companies must grant the leave and women, with few exceptions, cannot renounce it. During this period, a new mother receives 80 per cent of her salary, paid by INPS, Italy’s version of Social Security. After that, parents of both genders have the right to take six extra months of parental leave, which is optional and paid at 30 per cent of their salaries.
In practise, however, Italian women struggle in the job market more than women in other developed countries. Italy has one of the lowest rates of female participation in the workforce in Europe. Only 61 percent of Italian women work, well below the European average of 72 per cent.