Menstrual leave: a possibility in Spain, a reality in Asia

The right for women to “menstrual leave”, proposed by the Spanish government on May 18, currently only exists in a handful of countries, mainly in Asia.

Here is an overview of devices similar to the Spanish project, which provides for the allocation of specific sick leave for painful periods, funded by the state.

Japan: in law since 1947

In Japan, the right to menstrual leave has been enshrined in law since 1947: companies cannot force an employee to work if she asks for it with “menstrual leave”. There is no limit to the number of days that can be taken for this type of leave, but it is generally unpaid.

Only about 30% of companies offer to repay all or part of these periodic leaves, according to a study by the Japanese Ministry of Labor conducted in 2020 on 6,000 companies. This survey subsequently found that only 0.9% of eligible employees stated that they had taken menstrual leave.

South Korea: one day per month

In South Korea, employees are allowed to take one day of menstrual leave per month, which is unpaid. Companies that do not comply with the law risk a fine of 5 million won, or about 3,750 euros.

This statutory leave was paid until 2004, when an important change in labor law was implemented. According to a 2018 survey, only 19% of female workers say they make use of the right to menstrual leave.

Indonesia: one or two days per cycle

In Indonesia, a law passed in 2003 provides for one or two days of paid leave at the beginning of the menstrual cycle, in the case of painful periods. The law only obliges female employees to inform their employer of the date of taking this leave.

But the detailed implementation of this system is left to companies and their employees. In practice, many companies allow only one day of menstrual leave or none by choosing to ignore the law.

Taiwan: maximum three days per year

Taiwan also recognizes the right to menstrual leave for female workers up to a limit of one day per month for a total of three days per year.

It is possible that employees enjoy more leave days, but then they count as normal days of sick leave. These special days off, like sick leave, are reimbursed as half days.

China: recommendations

In China, there is no national law on menstrual leave, but recommendations from the Ministries of Health and Labor to grant one or two days of sick leave, on medical certificate, to women suffering from very painful periods.

Zambia: “Mother’s Day” since 2015

Zambia, a South African country, passed a law in 2015 that gives women the right to menstrual leave, allowing them to take an extra day off per month, without notice or a medical certificate in case of painful periods. Nicknamed in the country “Mother’s Day”, menstrual leave is widely accepted, but some employers remain reluctant, demanding that women cancel it, for example.

“Some companies don’t even want to hear that their employees are entitled to Mother’s Day”, explains Ruth Kanyanga Kamwi, communications specialist and feminist activist. But it is mainly thanks to the unions that more and more workers are exercising their rights, she explains.

Various companies around the world

Several companies around the world offer their employees the opportunity to take ‘period leave’. The move is recent with announcements made in recent months or years.

For example, the Australian pension fund Future Super, the Indian delivery company Zomato or the French furniture manufacturer Louis offer six, ten or twelve extra days of paid leave per year to their employees with painful periods.


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