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HEALTH

Spanish cabinet approves paid ‘menstrual leave’

Spain's cabinet on Tuesday approved a bill which grants paid medical leave for women who suffer from severe period pain, in what would be a first in Europe.

period products
Spain approves paid menstrual leave. Andy Buchanan / AFP

The bill entitles workers experiencing period pain to as much time off as they need, with the state social security system – not employers – picking up the tab for the sick leave.

As with paid leave for other health reasons, a doctor must approve the temporary medical incapacity.

The proposed legislation must still be approved by parliament, with a vote
not expected for months.

It was not clear whether Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez’s minority coalition government, which has made women’s rights a priority, has enough support in the assembly to pass it.

The proposal has split the coalition and even divided unions, with some
saying it could stigmatise women in the workplace and favour the recruitment of men.

But Equality Minister Irene Montero said the law will recognise a health problem that has been largely swept under the carpet until now.

“Periods will no longer be taboo,” she told a news conference after the cabinet approved the bill.

“We will be the first country in Europe to introduce a temporary sick leave that is fully financed by the state for painful and incapacitating periods,” she added.

‘No more hiding our pain’

“No more going to work with pain, no more taking pills before arriving at work and having to hide the fact on days we’re pain that makes us unable to work.”

Montero belongs to the far-left Podemos party, Sánchez’s junior coalition partner which has been the driving force behind the law.

Menstrual leave is currently offered only in a small number of countries across the globe, among them South Korea and Indonesia – and none in Europe.

The Spanish legislation is part of a much wider reproductive health reform which will include changes to the country’s abortion laws.

It will end the requirement for minors of 16 and 17 to obtain parental consent before terminating a pregnancy and include measures to boost access to abortion at private hospitals.

Spain decriminalised abortion in 1985 in cases of rape, if a foetus is malformed or if a birth poses a serious physical or psychological risk to the mother.

The scope of the law was broadened in 2010 to allow abortion on demand in the first 14 weeks of pregnancy, but access to the procedure is complicated by the fact that many doctors in public hospitals refuse to perform abortions.

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BREXIT

Reciprocal healthcare agreements between Spain and Gibraltar end

The Spanish government has confirmed that it will not extend its reciprocal healthcare agreements with Gibraltar, meaning that from July 1st 2022, it will come to an end.

Reciprocal healthcare agreements between Spain and Gibraltar end

When the UK left the EU on December 31st 2020, both sides agreed that the UK’s EHIC European healthcare cards could still be used until their expiry dates.

This card provided British travellers with free state-provided medical care in the EU in case of emergencies.

Beyond their five year period of validity, EHIC cards are no longer valid and travellers have to apply for the new Global Heath Insurance Card (GHIC) instead. 

Spain made a separate agreement with Gibraltar under its Royal Brexit Decree in which unilateral arrangements would be maintained in the territory and extended until June 30th 2022.

During the meeting of the Spanish Council of Ministers on Tuesday, the Spanish Government decided not to extend the agreement further, meaning that residents of Gibraltar will no longer be able to benefit from it.

In a statement the government of Gibraltar said: “It would have been HMGoG’s preference for these arrangements, which deeply affect citizens on either side of the border on matters as essential as healthcare, to have been maintained. Indeed, HMGoG was prepared to continue with them”.

“However, because reciprocity is a key element to these arrangements which cannot work without coordination and provisions for reimbursement of costs etc., HMGoG is left with no option but to discontinue them also in so far as treatment in Gibraltar is concerned,” it continued. 

What does this mean?

Gibraltar residents insured under Gibraltar’s Group Practice Medical Scheme will, after 30th June 2022, no longer be able to access free emergency healthcare in Spain during a temporary stay in the country. 

Those who are residents in Spain who travel over to Gibraltar will not have access to free healthcare on The Rock either. 

As a consequence, if a resident of Gibraltar falls ill or has an accident while over the border in Spain or the same for a Spanish resident in Gibraltar, they will have to pay for healthcare.

The government of Gibraltar is encouraging its citizens from July 1st 2022 to have appropriate travel insurance with medical cover each time they visit Spain.

This means that even those who are hopping over the border for few hours such as for a shopping trip or going out for dinner will have to make sure that they have adequate health insurance. 

“Where medical attention is required the costs incurred may be considerable, so you should ensure you have adequate insurance cover or alternatively the means to pay,” the Gibraltar government said in their statement.

  

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