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Will France finally introduce menstrual leave?

After an initial rejection, the text will be re-examined in session on 4 April

 Will France finally introduce menstrual leave?  After an initial rejection, the text will be re-examined in session on 4 April

In a country like France where work is often synonymous with performance and constant presence, the idea of granting specific days off for menstruation may seem absurd to some but crucial to others. While many of us may have used the excuse of menstruation to skip physical education classes in the past, for many women, it represents a real inability to perform their professional tasks effectively. Thus, the implementation of menstrual leave not only acknowledges this medical reality but also serves as a means to promote well-being, productivity, and gender equality in the workplace. Already adopted in several countries such as Japan or more recently Spain, the proposed law regarding menstrual leave in France was initiated by the Green parliamentary group, with Sébastien Peytavie at the forefront. After being submitted to the Senate for examination, it faced an initial obstacle by being rejected in the social affairs committee. However, the text was reconsidered in plenary session following a close vote, resulting in a tie on March 27. This delicate situation has led to the scheduling of a new voting session planned for April 4. While awaiting the verdict, here's everything you need to know about the issue.


Women facing painful periods and endometriosis often find themselves in a difficult situation, juggling the need to work with the debilitating pain they experience. These challenges are particularly well illustrated by testimonies of female workers who must endure monthly suffering that is difficult to bear while fulfilling their professional obligations. As a form of support, the legislative proposal offered a maximum of 13 days of sick leave per year for women suffering from "incapacitating menstruation," without a waiting period and fully paid by health insurance, subject to the presentation of a medical certificate. It also aims to facilitate teleworking during this time of the month, as well as to open discussions within companies and the public sector to adjust positions and working hours to account for "women's menstrual health." If the law were to pass, it would mark a significant step towards recognizing the specific needs of women in the workplace and strengthen their access to fair and tailored working conditions for their reproductive health. Companies like Goodays have already adopted this measure and have seen a positive impact on their employees. Out of the 40 women working there, only 5 have requested to take these leaves, which speaks both to the relevance of this measure and its measured use. This proactive approach has notably helped to alleviate the mental burden of the concerned workers and strengthen their professional commitment.


Yet, while the initiative of menstrual leave addresses a crucial need for female workers, the initial rejection of the bill has sparked a series of debates fueled by various concerns. Among the main reasons advanced by opponents, there are concerns related to its impact on business productivity. As emphasized by a member of the Union Centriste during parliamentary debates: "We must ensure that any proposed legislative measure does not excessively disrupt the functioning of businesses and does not create imbalances in our already fragile economy." Similarly, opposition to the bill also highlighted fears of discrimination in hiring against women. Some political actors and business leaders have raised the possibility that employers might be discouraged from hiring women due to menstrual leaves, fearing that this could lead to imbalances in staffing or complications in human resources management. Ironically, this concern has been particularly present among representatives of conservative political parties, who have stressed the need to maintain a balanced and non-discriminatory approach in employment.

Despite these oppositions, progressive and feminist voices have advocated for menstrual leave, emphasizing the importance of recognizing the specific needs of women in the workplace. As stated by Green MP Marie Durand: "Menstrual leave is not a luxury but a necessity to ensure equal opportunities and the well-being of female workers. We must recognize that menstrual pains can have a significant impact on women's ability to fully perform their professional responsibilities." These arguments are supported by research data indicating that nearly 20% of women report suffering from very painful periods, according to a study by IFOP. Moreover, a survey conducted by the Center for Economic and Social Research revealed that menstrual pain is the main cause of absenteeism at work among women, accounting for up to 5 days per year for some of them. As sociologist Sarah Martin pointed out: "Menstrual leave aims not only to relieve physical pain but also to recognize and legitimize women's experiences in the workplace. It is an essential step towards a more inclusive and equitable society."

While the fate of the menstrual leave bill remains uncertain, its adoption by some companies and municipalities offers an interesting perspective on its viability. Carrefour, L'Oréal, and many others, as well as local authorities, have taken the lead. In March 2023, Saint-Ouen paved the way by becoming the first French city to grant this privilege to its employees. Quickly, other municipalities followed suit. And that's not all, as this innovative idea now finds echoes in the world of education, with the Sorbonne and the University of Angers leading the way. A movement spreading across the country, as other institutions plan to follow suit as early as the next academic year. Throughout France, initiatives are flourishing, perhaps heralding an imminent paradigm shift.