Italy Is Considering Giving Women Paid Time Off For Their Periods

March 30, 2017

This might actually be a TERRIBLE idea.

If legislation currently under consideration by Italian Parliament is approved, women in Italy will be able to take up to three days of paid time off from their jobs each month, for what they are calling ‘menstrual leave.’

The law allows employees who experience painful periods to stay home without fear of losing their jobs, and without losing any income. (In order to take the leave, women would be required to provide employers with a note from a healthcare practitioner.)

While Italy would be the first Western country to enact menstrual leave legislation, it is already in place in Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, and the Philippines, as well as at a few private companies, including Nike.

The Italian edition of Marie Claire called the proposed policy “a standard-bearer of progress and social sustainability,” and in theory, it does sound like something to celebrate. However, critics of the law warn that it could backfire, resulting in companies that are already reluctant to hire women being even more unlikely to hire them.

Italy already has one of the lowest rates of women in the workforce: only 61 percent of Italian women work outside the home. Compare that with the European average of 72 percent, and the United States, where 71 percent of women are employed, and Italy doesn’t look so female-friendly after all. Plus, a report by Italy’s national bureau of statistics showed that nearly one-fourth of Italian women are fired either during their pregnancies, or right after giving birth – a practice that is blatantly illegal.

One reason pregnant women and new mothers may be fired is that companies are trying to avoid having to comply with Italian law, which mandates five months of maternity leave, paid at 80 percent of the mother’s usual salary, followed by an optional six months of parental leave that may be taken by parents of any gender, during which employees still collect 30 percent of their regular salaries. Although these paid leaves are funded by the Italian government, employers are still required to hold parents’ jobs for them.

Economist Daniela Piazzalunga told the Washington Post that she foresees possible “negative repercussions” from the passage of the menstrual leave law. “The demand for female employees among companies might decrease, or women could be further penalized both in terms of salary and career advancement.” And in Vice , Miriam Goi wrote that she worried menstrual leave might perpetuate “stereotypes about about women being more emotional during their periods,” something  that is already a problem, along with plenty of people believing menstruation is disgusting and freaking out at the sight of women’s period blood.

Image via Shutterstock.

Comment: Do you think women should be able to take paid time off for their periods?

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