Employment and Industrial Relations Law

Menstrual Leave –The latest form of Leave in Employment

01 Aug 2022

6 min read

The concept of Leave, as that period of time when one may opt not to work, is a basic employment right, entitled to all those who work in any given sector.

Maltese Employment Law caters for various forms of leave for different situations.

For instance, every full-time employee working a 40-hour week is entitled to be paid annual leave of the minimum amount of four weeks and thirty-two hours,[1] together with any additional days of leave from Public Holidays.[2] The Employment and Industrial Relations Act[3] moreover discusses maternity leave,[4] parental leave,[5] and leave for urgent family reasons, among others, together with the Minimum Special Leave Entitlement Regulations.[6] The latter puts forward the minimum entitlements to sick leave, birth leave, bereavement leave, marriage leave, injury leave and leave for jury service.[7]

Yet, could the concept of leave be extended to include menstrual leave in the local employment scene?

Menstrual leave is leave which may be offered to women who, at their place of work, would have the choice of taking paid or else unpaid leave during their menstruation period or during menopause. This is namely due to its physical and emotional discomfort. Since in recent times it has been an ongoing discussion in many European countries, it is important to understand its benefits, or otherwise, for possible future implementation in the Maltese scenario.  

The Pros and Cons

Overall, menstrual leave has been shown to improve the physical and psychological health and well-being of women, especially those suffering from any more serious illness related to their period, such as abnormal uterine bleeding (AUB), premenstrual syndrome (PMS), Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and dysmenorrhea (which is painful menstrual periods), among others.  With women opting to not work during such time, it may well retain the work productivity at a high and constant level, on those days when the female can indeed perform at her utmost. As a result of this, the output at the place of work will increase. All the more, menstrual leave will reduce any stigma related to a woman’s menstrual period, which is purely natural and inevitable.

Some may argue that such leave would however hinder gender equality rather than boost morale at the workplace. It essentially increases gender discrimination, as men would not be offered the same kind of leave. Would men be offered an alternative type of leave or additional days to their normal hours of leave entitlement? Possibly, menstrual leave could be added to the normal days of sick leave. Besides this, persons with different menopause situations, for example, those with early menopause or trans women may be subject to more scrutiny and invasion of privacy if the situation is not properly tackled, in a sensitive and understanding way.

Another issue with arises is that a reverse stereotype would instead emerge, where women are regarded as less worthy or reliable in a workforce, or else they are perceived to be too emotional or vulnerable to work a certain task, or to work in a profession, hence being less productive. This would in turn increase work gender discrimination during promotions and other work offers. And even though the stigma of menstrual periods may decrease, it may even negatively normalise heavy menstrual bleeding, and so women would not seek medical professional help to seek clarity on any condition they might suffer from.

The Application for Menstrual Leave in Foreign Countries

Despite such concerns, some Southeastern countries have already put into effect menstrual Leave. In Indonesia, a flexible negotiation may be made between any employer and a union for the female worker. In Japan, a woman working and suffering from a menstrual period which is “especially difficult” may request this menstrual leave in which the employer will not employ such a woman on the days of her menstrual period. The employers have discretion and can grant leave by calendar day, half-day, or by the hour.

Also, in South Korea, there is one day of unpaid leave provided to the woman, per month, awarded at the employee’s request. All female employees are entitled to the benefit, irrespective of their job status or how long they have worked the job. Moreover, female employees are ensured additional pay if they do not take menstrual leave. In Zambia, it allows women workers to take one day of leave from work, each month, without having to produce a medical certificate or give a reason to their employer. Lastly, in Taiwan, women are entitled to three days of menstrual leave per year, not calculated toward the 30 days of common sick leave. There may also be private companies offering this type of leave, such as the Indian Media company ‘Culture Magazine’, that provides their female employees with this benefit.

Approval of Menstrual Leave in Spain

On the 17th of May of this year, an approved bill in Spain raised the discussion on menstrual leave becoming more popular in the European Union (EU). It stipulates that women employed by both public and private establishments registered with the central and/or state governments, will be entitled to two days of menstrual leave every month, which would amount to 24 days of menstrual leave annually. Furthermore, there is a proposal of a three-day optional medical leave a month, with two additional days permitted in exceptional cases. They would be the first EU country to offer such leave, yet the final decision is to be made by Parliament by the end of the year.

Concluding Remarks

Inclusively, Malta could, too, consider menstrual leave as an additional form of leave. It would be at hand for any female worker who, indeed, necessarily requires it and seeks it and hence, should be given its fair share of attention from a legislative point of view.

[1] Organisation of Working Time Regulations, S.L 452.87, Article 8

[2] National Holidays and Other Public Holidays Act, Chapter 252 of the Laws of Malta

[3] Chapter 452 of the Laws of Malta

[4] To this, see also the Protection of Maternity (Employment) Regulation, S.L 452.91

[5] To this, see also the Parental Leave Entitlement Regulations, S.L 452.78

[6] L.N. 432 of 2007

[7] Ibid Article 1 sub article (2)


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