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HEALTH

Spain set to offer 100% paid week-long leave to care for family members

The Spanish government is set to offer fully paid week-long leaves for workers to care for children, parents, other family members and partners who are unwell, with the country's Minister for Social Rights arguing the Covid-19 pandemic has taught society the importance of caring for loved ones.

leave spain care for family member
The proposal, which will still have to be approved by the Spanish Parliament, would also allow workers to book time off even if the family member's condition isn't serious, as is currently required. Photo: klimkin from Pixabay

Speaking on Thursday at a policy conference at the Caixa Forum in Seville where proposals for a new national framework on family support was presented, Minister for Social Rights and Agenda Ione Belarra said, “Spain must begin to bring itself into line with other European Union countries and establish a care leave of at least seven days a year per person, which is 100 percent paid.”

“Covid,” she added, “has taught us how important it is to take care of ourselves and to have time to take care of others.”

Belarra outlined her hopes that the policy would allow flexibility to caregiving, whether that be taking a paid day off work when caring for sick children, or having the time to be able to take elderly parents to doctor and hospital appointments. 

The permit will allow a worker to “stay at home caring for their children if they’ve spent all night vomiting or with a high temperature” and overall “give peace of mind to families who need to be close to their loved ones”.

Belarra and her government colleague Irene Montero, Minister for Equality, hope the Ley de Familias will extend paid care leave to nine days a year for carers travelling outside their region.

Spanish legislation currently allows for two days paid care leave, and the proposals would bring Spanish legislation on par with other European nations. The European Union recommends a minimum of five days per year.

Crucially, the proposals also extend the paid leave to include care for any cohabitant, not only blood relatives as current legislation allows. 

The proposal, which will still have to be approved by the Spanish Parliament, would also allow workers to book time off even if the family member’s condition isn’t serious, as is currently required.

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WOMEN'S RIGHTS

Spanish government divided over proposed menstruation leave bill

Talk of abortion policy reform and proposed menstrual leave has dominated Spanish discourse this week, but it’s also dividing Spain’s coalition government.

Spanish government divided over proposed menstruation leave bill

Spain’s PSOE-fronted coalition government recently outlined proposals that have dominated public discourse in the country.

But the legislation, which would allow women over the age of 16 to get abortions without the permission of their parents and introduce ‘menstruation leave’ for those suffering serious period pains, has not only divided Spanish society but the government itself.

The proposals would make Spain a leader in the Western world, and the first European Union member state to introduce menstrual leave, and changes to abortion law would overturn a 2015 law passed by the conservative People’s Party that forced women aged 16 and 17 to obtain parental consent.

The wide-ranging bill would also end VAT on menstrual products, increase the free distribution of them in schools, and allow between three and five days of leave each month for women who experience particularly painful periods.

READ MORE: What are Spain’s abortion laws for foreign residents and visitors?

Menstrual leave

Ángela Rodríguez, the Secretary of State for Equality, told Spanish newspaper El Periódico in March that “it’s important to be clear about what a painful period is – we’re not talking about slight discomfort, but about serious symptoms such as diarrhoea, fever and bad headaches.”

“When there’s a problem that can’t be solved medically, we think it’s very sensible to have temporary sick leave,” she added.

Cabinet politics

The proposals are slated for approval in cabinet next week, and judging by reports in the Spanish media this week, it is far from reaching a consensus. It is believed the intra-cabinet tensions stem not from the changes to abortion and contraception accessibility, but rather the proposed menstrual leave.

The junior coalition partner in government, Podemos, largely supports the bill, but it is believed some in the PSOE ranks are more sceptical about the symbolism and employment effects of the proposed period pain policy.

Vice President and Minister of Economic Affairs, Nadia Calviño, said this week: “Let me repeat it very clearly: this government believes and is absolutely committed to gender equality and we will never adopt measures that may result in a stigmatisation of women.”

Yet Second Vice President and Minister of Labour, Yolanda Díaz, who is viewed as further to the left than President Pedro Sánchez and other PSOE cabinet ministers, is reportedly “absolutely in favour” of the measure to reform Spain’s “deeply masculinised” labour market.

Sources in the Spanish media have this week also reported that some PSOE cabinet ministers feel the proposed paid leave not only plays up to stereotypes of women, or stigmatises them, like Calviño says, but also places them at a disadvantage in the world of work.

Minister of Inclusion, Social Security and Migration, José Luis Escrivá, stated that while the government should seek to improve women’s employment protections, it should also seek to boost their participation in the labour market under “better conditions.”

In that vein, some feel menstrual leave could be used a form of of employment discrimination similarly to how pregnancy has been historically, and the policy would, in that sense, actually be more regressive than progressive in enshrining women’s workplace rights. 

READ MORE: Spain eyes free contraception for under-25’s

Trade unions

Trade unions are also sceptical of the menstrual leave legislation. Cristina Antoñanzas, deputy secretary of UGT, one of Spain’s largest trade unions, has echoed those in the cabinet who feel the proposals could “stigmatise women.” She added that “it does women a disservice.”

Public opinion

A survey run by INTIMINA found that 67 percent of Spanish women are in favour of regulating menstrual leave, but also that 75 percent fear it is “a double-edged sword” that could generate labor discrimination.

The survey also found that 88 percent of women who suffer from disabling and frequent period pain have gone to work despite it. Seventy-one percent admitted that they have normalised working with pain.

Cabinet showdown

The proposed menstrual leave policy will be debated in cabinet next week when the Council of Ministers debates and approves the broader abortion and contraception reforms. According to sources in the Spanish media, and many cabinet ministers themselves, it seems a consensus on menstruation leave is a long way off.




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