Colombia: Menstrual Leave Reaches Congress

The bill submitted by four representatives to the Chamber has been classified as a revolutionary concept, since it proposes modifications to the Substantive Labor Code.

Woman with pain in the belly

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LatinAmerican Post | David García Pedraza

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Leer en español: Colombia: La licencia menstrual llega al Congreso

Of the 100% of menstruating women who work, only 8% achieve a medical disability that allows them to take the necessary time to recover from the discomforts related to menstruation. On the other hand, 92% do not have this luck and must work with the ailments presented. This argument is one of those that motivated the representatives to the Chamber, María Fernanda Carrascal and Pedro Suárez Vacca, congressmen related to the Petro government, to file a bill, and to present, together with two other legislators, the menstrual leave.

This bill has begun to be debated on social networks and the media, where supporters and detractors have come to light, before Congress itself does so. As usual, several myths have been created regarding this proposal, which impairs the correct deliberation of this issue, which is a pending issue that has been in national politics for several years.

What Is, and What Is Not, True of the Menstrual License?

This bill, which consists of 17 articles, contains many important points to "guarantee the dignity and well-being for the guarantee of menstrual rights based on the labor, sexual and reproductive rights of menstruating people in Colombia” is the cornerstone of the proposal as expressed by representative Carrascal for W Radio, one of the most important media in the country.

On the twenty pages of the document, it is specified that the menstrual leave may be taken once every 26 days, and it is also stipulated that this leave will only last one day. In the event that the menstruating person needs more days, they must present the relevant medical leave and reach an agreement with the employer.

The license also does not place conditions on the positions that the women are performing. In addition, it includes the term 'menstruating people' in order to avoid segregation of menstruating people, but who identify as different from the female gender.

Another of the myths that have arisen is that the day of leave will have a different cost than the day worked, which is not true. Actually, the project stipulates that this day will be paid in the same way as the rest of the working days.

Would Leave Put Women at an Employability Disadvantage?

One aspect to take into account is the possibility that employers can hire more men than women given this new license, in which companies would lose productivity, since menstruating women would not be able to fulfill their contract hours. Is this statement correct? For the expert in the economy and labor market, Paula Herrera, this license would put women at a disadvantage when entering the labor market, because recruiters would choose men for the simple fact that they do not menstruate, which means that there would be no loss of time.

Herrera, in an interview given to Cambio Magazine, proposes that instead of taking leave, women can work from home while they recover from the ailments caused by menstruation. The foregoing in order to be productive at work to avoid increasing the gap in job opportunities between men and women. And in case there is a medical disability, let the EPS cover the expenses.

The bill is no stranger to this discussion, for this reason it includes a series of measures to mitigate this possible discrimination. For example, promote hiring parity between men and women, penalize companies that do not comply with this measure, and carry out campaigns to raise awareness among the population about what is really behind menstrual rights. Likewise, it recommends modifying the Substantive Labor Code so that the menstrual right is included in the same article that protects maternity and minors.

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Menstrual Leave in Other Latitudes

This project is already law in several countries in Europe, Asia, and America. In French, Spanish, South Korean and Mexican societies, it is a reality to speak without shame about menstrual ailments and to take advantage of the law to obtain a license for these symptoms. Leaving nationalities aside, companies like Nike incorporate this license into their regulations.

The joint work between governments, businessmen, and society has made it possible for this license to become a reality in a few countries around the world, and the fact that it has little visibility at a global level is not an impediment for Colombia not being able to address the issue. Congresswoman Carrascal also assures that in the countries where this license is in force, the need to accept this proposal was glimpsed because thanks to menstruation many diseases have been treated, or it has been a warning sign that something is not right in the operation of the body. Although, she clarified that menstruating is not synonymous with illness.

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