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  • Should Italian Women Get "Menstrual Leave" from Employers?

    A proposal for a new Italian law might hurt, rather than help, the group it targets
    Our Paesani

    By Francesca Di Meglio

    The Italian parliament is considering a proposal that would give women who experience painful periods paid leave. If the law eventually passes, it will force employers to give three days of paid leave to females each month. The specifics on how to define "painful periods" are unclear.

    On the surface, the idea seems like an attempt to empower women in a country that has a reputation for still being somewhat patriarchal. But some critics are worrying that a law like this could backfire and actually harm women more than it will help, according to the Independent.

    Discover the reasons why I think this law passing could be a big mistake:

    • Women seem like the weaker sex. This idea that women can't put up with their period and therefore need time off separates them even more from their male counterparts. It sounds like archaic reasoning. I've argued with old-school Italians who think women jarring tomatoes when they have their period will somehow spoil the batch. This seems in line with that crazy thinking.
    • Only a small niche of women has a necessity for this. Certainly, a small percentage of women suffer through menstruation problems that could cause them to be unable to come to work. Probably every woman has experienced a handful of unbearable cramps during menstruation in their lifetime but not consistently. Usually, they take some sort of medication to regulate the menstrual cycle and deal with associated cramps and headaches. Those with a severe menstrual condition are relatively few.
    • This gives employers more of a reason to avoid hiring women. When I mentioned this proposal to my husband, a native Italian, his first reaction was, "Well, that's another reason Italian employers are going to hire only men." In fact, women have a hard time getting and keeping jobs, especially when they are in those childbearing years. "According to a report by ISTAT, Italy's national bureau of statistics, almost one-fourth of pregnant workers are fired during or right after their pregnancies – even though doing so is illegal," according the Independent. The lesson here is that even in the land that honors mothers like superheroes, they can't get hired.
    • This could be another talking point for never bailing out Italy. Benefits are great. And Italy has proven it is good at doling them out. But it (along with the other PIIGS &ndash Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece, and Spain) also has earned a reputation for going too far. During Overtime, the YouTube-only portion of HBO's Real Time with Bill Maher, posted March 24, 2017, Maher suggested that the PIIGS are sunny places, where people are having sex from 1 to 4, so they can't get that GDP up. (Warning: Maher used foul language to explain this.) The panel did not disagree.
    • Italy should be focused on bringing people into the workforce. A stagnant economy is dragging down the country and has people fearing a European Union crisis on the scale of Greece or even worse. High youth unemployment rates are a big factor. And this kind of benefit could encourage employers to avoid hiring an entire portion of the population. The right response is to come up with job opportunities and ways to make women and men more attractive to employers and vice versa. I would forget perks that employers would try to work around and start focusing on ideas on how to produce the kinds of businesses that make money and employ people. I might even try to come up with ways to remove corruption from the economy because it is eating into profits and making it harder for honest, working-class people to survive, according to a recent Washington Post article.
    If Italians really want to help women find jobs and retain them, they are going about it all wrong. Italian employers will loathe this kind of perk and will find a way around it; they simply won't hire women, which is already an issue. Empowering women with the skills necessary to compete in a workforce that is rapidly changing and turning more and more toward technology is a much better idea than "menstruation leave."

    Di Meglio has written the Our Paesani column for since 2003. You can follow the Italian Mamma on Facebook or Twitter @ItalianMamma10.

    Article Published 3/27/17


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