Statutory women’s health policies observed across the globe
The countries across the globe with the most progressive women’s health policies.
Women make up nearly half of the global workforce. Yet female-centred health issues — such as painful periods and pregnancy problems — are still sometimes stigmatised in the workplace. A REBA study found that more than three million women left employment in 2019 due to health concerns.
Many countries have now introduced sweeping policies designed to help women tackle the unique challenges they face at work. There has been a growing movement to address these issues and promote women’s health in the workplace.
To celebrate International Women’s Day 2023, let’s take a tour of the countries with some of the most progressive women’s health policies in the world.
In February 2023, Spain became the first European country to offer statutory menstrual leave. Women working in Spain are entitled to take up to five days’ paid leave every month to deal with difficult or painful periods.
2. South Africa
South Africa’s statutory miscarriage leave is among the most generous in the world. Women can take up to six weeks of fully paid leave if they miscarry in the third trimester or experience a stillbirth.
Japan has one of the world’s longest standing menstrual leave laws. Introduced in 1947 to help women stay in their jobs, women are entitled to request seiri kyuka — or “physiological leave” — if they have painful periods.
India was the first country to mandate paid leave for women who have suffered a miscarriage or stillbirth. In these instances, women can take six weeks off work at the same rate as maternity benefit.
However, due to the informal employment contracts of many Indian employees, not everyone can access this leave.
5. New Zealand
New Zealand now offers three days’ bereavement leave for women who have experienced a miscarriage or stillbirth. While this may seem minimal, it is one of the more progressive policies, as leave can be taken at any time from conception onwards.
Partners of any gender are also entitled to take up to three days’ leave following their loss.
6. South Korea
In South Korea, women are entitled to one day of menstrual leave every month. This law has been enforced in recent years. In 2021, a South Korean airline CEO was fined 2 million won (or £1,270) for refusing flight attendants’ requests for menstrual leave.
In Mauritius, female employees who experience a miscarriage are entitled to two weeks’ leave on full pay. Maternity protection laws in Mauritius also extend to breastfeeding mothers, who can take up to an hour each day to breastfeed without any pay deductions.
Zambia’s statutory menstrual leave policy is known as ‘Mother’s Day’, but it is available to all women regardless of their parenthood status. Women can take one day off work every month without providing a medical reason.
This policy is controversial. Some people claim it deters businesses from hiring women, while others believe the ‘Mother’s Day’ euphemism unnecessarily treats periods as a taboo topic.
Mothers in Estonia with a child aged up to 18 months are entitled to fully paid breastfeeding breaks at work. They can take a 30-minute break every three hours, or a one-hour break every day.
Like neighbouring New Zealand, Australia offers a small amount of statutory leave if women miscarry or experience a stillbirth. Women can take up to two days’ compassionate leave in these circumstances.
How to support women in your workplace
More and more countries are embracing equity by mandating statutory women’s health policies. Growing government support for women’s health is essential for fostering inclusive, productive workplaces.
But societies and businesses need to do more to reduce the stigma around miscarriage, menstruation, and menopause so women feel safe and comfortable using these entitlements.
Businesses must comply with local women’s health laws. If you are unsure which policies apply in your country, speak to an employment compliance expert like Mauve. We can help you ensure your policies are fit for purpose, and even help you offer enhanced leave packages to support the women in your business.
Get in touch with Mauve to learn more.
The information provided has been checked for accuracy as of the date of publication, and is intended as a general guide and for information purposes. It is subject to unanticipated and unexpected changes and does not constitute legal advice.