French lawmakers divided: menstrual leave proposal hits roadblock in national assembly

France promotes telecommuting and additional day off for women experiencing painful periods, but rejected a proposed law granting 13 paid sick days annually through Health Insurance.

French lawmakers divided: menstrual leave proposal hits roadblock in national assembly
PHOTO: Assemblée nationale, JACQUES PAQUIER, 2019 April 6

25-04-2024

Anne-Marie Leal

Women’s Rights Researcher,

Global Human Rights Defence.

 

A call for promoting telecommuting or providing an additional day off for women experiencing painful periods has been gaining momentum in France and across Europe in recent months. While Spain made headlines as the first European country to introduce menstrual leave, France appears to be taking a different approach.

 

In February 2024, a proposed law led by the Green parliamentary group, with Sébastien Peytavie at the forefront, suggested granting women the option to take up to 13 fully paid sick days annually through Health Insurance, without any waiting time, contingent upon presenting a medical certificate. However, this proposal faced significant opposition and failed to achieve consensus, even among women affected by conditions like endometriosis. These disagreements led to the French Senate rejecting the ambitious plan, with a vote of 206 against and 117 in favour, mirroring similar outcomes in neighbouring European countries. 

The proposal was revisited on March 27, with male French MPs participating in a simulated experience of period pain. A video of the simulation was widely shared on social media showcasing the parliamentarians exclaiming things like, “Ouch, that hurts!”, “It’s really horrible actually”, and “Very uncomfortable”. Despite unanimous acknowledgment of discomfort and the fact that none of the men could finish their sentences when asked to read the Statement regarding menstrual leave, the proposal (particularly Article 1 of the law) was rejected once again, with a tied vote of 16 against and 16 in favour. 

 

Regardless of the fact that some French companies like Carrefour and local authorities have announced plans to grant an additional day off per month to affected women, the proposed law remained the subject of ongoing controversy, especially within the Senate majority.

 

Further, on March 4th, the proposal was not reconsidered by the National Assembly due to time constraints. Sébastien Peytavie expressed his disappointment and pledged to continue the fight for menstrual leave, referencing past struggles for women's reproductive rights. On X, he stated, "The struggle may be, but it won't be in vain." However, both the French society and wider international community remain hopeful that things will take a turn for the better in future. 

 

Sources and further readings:

NSS Magazine, (2024, March 28), Joor Ekabouma “Will France finally introduce menstrual leave?”

https://www.nssmag.com/en/lifestyle/36270/menstrual-leave-france

 The Connexion (2024, March 26), ‘Ouch, that hurts!’: Male French MPs test period pain simulator

https://www.connexionfrance.com/news/ouch-that-hurts-male-french-mps-test-period-pain-simulator/635771

 Le Monde (2024, March 4), “Pourquoi instaurer le congé menstruel en France ne fait pas l’unanimité : comprendre en trois minutes”

https://www.lemonde.fr/societe/video/2024/04/04/pourquoi-instaurer-le-conge-menstruel-en-france-ne-fait-pas-l-unanimite-comprendre-en-trois-minutes_6171268_3225.html

 X, Sébastien Peytavie (2024, March 5) “L’arrêt menstruel n’a pas été étudié en Séance à l’assemblée nationale hier”

https://twitter.com/speytavie/status/1776161857239195684?s=48&t=i5q0TClycZBVnkCPf2WKUQ