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Spain’s bid to grant period pain leave to women suffering from heavy or painful menstruation would be “a step in the wrong direction” if implemented in Britain, a businesswoman said.
Spanish Equality Minister Irene Montero, who is pushing for the law, told reporters after a cabinet meeting: “We are making a law that will ensure that women can live better.
“It’s an end to working in pain and popping pills.”
The goal, the minority Socialist-led government has stressed on repeated occasions, is to destigmatise menstrual health.
Its junior member, the Unidas Podemos (United We Can) party, is the driving force behind the bill – a move in line with women’s rights being a key component of its political banners since coming to power around four years ago.
Ms Montero said on national television: “This is a law that shows what Spain is and what is the feminist movement in Spain.”
But Dr Natalie Kenny, CEO of BioGrad Diagnostics, a laboratory and clinical training centre, thinks the new law could be counterproductive for women in the workplace.
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She told Express.co.uk: “If we want to reduce gender inequality, we must ensure that the benefits granted to women are also granted to men.
“This, in return, protects both men and women in the workplace against gender bias from their employers.”
The Spanish Cabinet approved a draft law on Tuesday. However, for the plans to materialise, it still needs to go through an arduous process in Parliament the bill.
If that happens, Spain would become the first European country with such a policy, which would cost the left-wing government, not employers, some €23.8million (£20.1m) per year.
It’s not yet clear if Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez’s Socialist minority coalition has enough support in the assembly to pass it, and hurdles are bound to lay ahead.
Dr Kenny said: “If the government implements the ruling that’s just come into Spain, some employers may also be less likely to employ women – so again, I believe we should be supporting the workforce across the board.”
As a UK-based company, the executive said, she will “continue to fly the flag for all genders”. That, she believes, is the road to equal opportunity.
She added: “Spain is a progressive country when it comes to gender equality and whilst I couldn’t predict the specific reasons why their government has chosen to implement this law, there is no doubt that they are acting as leaders and it will be interesting to see how this works in their country.”
Echoing her scepticism, Economy Minister Nadia Calvino warned the regulation could “stigmatise women” and put them at a disadvantage when competing for jobs.
Trade unions voice concerns, too.
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Cristina Antonanzas, deputy secretary-general of one of Spain’s largest trade unions, the UGT, warned the measure could impact “women’s access to the labour market”.
She said: “We cannot stigmatise women again, putting the focus on us as we have leave because we are on our period.
“You have to be careful with this type of decision.”
Ana Gómez, the head of the Asnala association of labour lawyers, said the measure could limit female jobseekers’ “chance of being hired because it refers to the specific biological condition of women”.
It had been reported the leave would be capped at three days per month, but the final government plan includes no limit to entitlement – naturally, when diagnosed by a doctor.
Solutions Dr Kenny would welcome at home include longer parental leave for fathers and free preschool childcare.
She said: “For me, boosting parental leave regardless of gender is increasingly important.
“What I would really like to see more than anything else is free preschool childcare in the UK. That will make the biggest difference for equality in generations.
“I would like to see more support for families, especially younger families.”
Spain’s reform package also includes a change to abortion laws to allow 16- and 17-year-old girls to have the procedure without parental consent, with Prime Minister Sánchez writing on Twitter: “We are advancing feminism.
“Women should be able to decide freely about their lives.”
Meanwhile, a plan to drop VAT on sanitary pads and tampons was left out of the draft and will be considered at a later date.
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