The Left is proud to announce the implementation of a menstrual leave policy for its secretariat staff. The move aims to improve the well-being of workers by recognising the needs, and tackling the stigma associated with menstruation. 

In October 2023, The Left in the European Parliament decided to trial a menstrual leave policy for staff. After the trial period, and in light of positive responses from staff, menstrual leave has been officially established amongst the other types of medical leave. Under the policy, staff can take up to 3 days per month  without a medical note and, alternatively, are also entitled to take three extra days per week working from home, should they choose so. In the five months that it’s been in place, it’s been used a total of 13 times by six different people out of a staff of 92, an element that, amongst others, demonstrates it’s been used on an as-needed basis.

Secretary General of the Left in the European Parliament, Francisco Orozco Dopico, said, “Roughly half of our staff menstruate, and for some, this can be challenging sometimes. We want our workplace to mirror the politics and principles we defend: to advance workers’ and women’s rights more generally. This means creating a working environment that is inclusive and stigma-free.”

A survey of 39 respondents found: 

  • 90% viewed the policy positively, with 10% saying they viewed it neither positively nor negatively;
  • 10% of respondents have used menstrual leave since its implementation; 
  • Almost 50% of respondents have used sick leave for menstrual pain in their working lifetimes, because menstrual leave was not available/ foreseen in their workplace; 
  • Of the 60% who had not used it, the main reason reported was that they didn’t need to;
  • No one who had used the policy reported experiencing any stigma or negative reaction;
  • However, four respondents reported a perception that taking it might negatively affect workload or relationships with colleagues or management.

Commenting on the survey results Francisco said: “It’s yielded really positive results in our group. We are encouraging the other political groups and the European Parliament’s administration to bring in similar policies. For the small number of staff who were worried about repercussions, it shows that women often suffer physically but feel guilty about taking menstrual leave. So there’s definitely more work to be done normalising these kinds of policies.”

Anastasia Cojocaru, a member of The Left staff, said: “Being able to take menstrual leave when I need to means a lot to me. As someone who had to take sick leave for this issue in the past, this policy has made a significant difference to my working life. Its existence implies that menstrual pain is being taken seriously and radically reduces the stigma around menstruation”.

The idea of menstrual leave is not new. It has been around for decades in some countries, such as Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and Indonesia. In Japan, unions demanded menstrual leave for women in the 1920s. It was finally introduced into Japanese labour law in 1947. In 2023, Spain became the first country in Europe to introduce a law allowing workers up to five days of menstrual leave per month with a doctor’s note. 

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