Every month, some women will experience extreme period pain with bouts of nausea, fatigue, and headaches. Bad menstrual cramps can be physically and mentally debilitating, which makes it difficult for women to concentrate at work. In an attempt to ease the pain, and limit worry about losing money, Italy may grant working women paid menstrual leave for three days per month.

The bill was presented to the Italian Parliament on March 13 by four female lawmakers from the ruling Democratic Party, the Washington Post reported. If approved, the law will mandate companies to grant three days of paid menstrual leave per month to female employees who experience dysmenorrhea, or painful periods. Rather than using sick days, Italian women who possess a medical certificate confirming their painful periods would get extra paid time off.

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What Is Dysmenorrhea?

Typically, dysmenorrhea occurs about two days before a period, or when menstrual bleeding starts, and is felt in the lower abdomen, back, or thighs. The pain can range from mild to severe, and last between 12 to 72 hours, and can be accompanied by nausea and vomiting, fatigue, and even diarrhea, according to the Cleveland Clinic.

Paid Menstrual Leave Around The World

Allegedly, menstrual cramps become less painful as women age, and may even stop completely if the woman has a baby. Italy's notion to approve paid menstrual leave is not a new concept outside of Western countries. Japan has had menstrual leave since after World War II; the 1947 Labor Standards Law states any women who suffer from painful periods, or whose occupation may exacerbate period pain, are allowed "seirikyuuka," or psychological leave. This law was passed at a time where women were entering the workforce in places like factories, mines and bus stations.

Meanwhile, Indonesian women are granted two days of menstrual leave per month. However, many companies ignore the law, or have even forced women to drop their pants to “prove” their need for time off. In Indonesia, the law exists, but isn’t as strictly enforced by a handful of companies.

Paid menstrual leave educates the public on the painful reality some women face each month. It opens up the dialogue and dismantles taboos related to menstruation. It encourages female empowerment. The Italian edition of Marie Claire wholeheartedly agrees, describing this draft law as “a standard-bearer of progress and social sustainability.”

Italian Women-Friendly Labor Laws: The Pros And Cons

Currently, Italy mandates five months of paid maternity leave for both employers and employees. This means companies must grant maternity leave and women, usually, cannot renounce it. During these five months, new moms receive 80 percent of their salary, paid by INPS, Italy's version of Social Security. After, parents are allowed to take an optional six extra months of parental leave to be paid at 30 percent of their salaries.

Italy's women-friendly labor laws have many critics arguing it's a "catch-22." Although mandatory, companies will find ways to withhold parental leave. For example, Italian women often report receiving undated resignation letters, once they announce their pregnancy, while 25 percent of them were laid off in 2010 because they got pregnant.

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Some women fear paid menstrual leave will lead to a similar fate. In Donna Moderna, an Italian magazine, Lorenza Pleuteri wrote,“employers could become even more oriented to hire men rather than women." Currently, less than two-thirds of Italian women are in the labor force, which is one of the lowest rates in Europe (average in Europe is 72 percent).

In other words, critics fear the passage of this law could lead to less of a demand for female employees. It may become another reason for employers not to hire women, which could lead to greater female unemployment. Yet, so many women suffer from this condition, and a properly enforced law could help them feel supported, happier, and more productive in the workplace.

What About The U.S.?

The Italian law could be approved in the coming months. Meanwhile, it's not likely other countries, like the U.S., will follow suit. The U.S. has no parental leave laws, and only grants 12 weeks of leave without pay to new parents.

Ladies, you'll still have to make a decision between taking a sick day, or going to the office feeling and/or looking like the movie The Grudge.

See Also:

Menstruation And The Female Brain

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