The ministry told The Associated Press it had not leaked the draft and that the version the Cabinet considers could undergo revisions.
Spain's secretary of state for equality, Ángela Rodríguez, floated the idea of providing some sort of menstrual leave in March.
“It’s important to be clear about what we mean by painful period,” she told El Periódico newspaper. “We’re not talking about a slight discomfort, but about serious symptoms such as diarrhea, fever and bad headaches.”
While a handful of private companies across Europe have adopted period policies, enacting a nationwide approach would make Spain a pioneer in Europe. Parts of Asia, ranging from Japan to South Korea, have long had menstrual leave rules, though the extent to which they are used has been debated.
Italy briefly flirted with the idea in 2016, proposing a bill that would have provided three fully paid days off to workers who obtained medical certificates. The proposal failed to progress before the parliamentary term ran out in 2018.
One of Spain's major labor unions panned the draft legislation, saying it could lead to women facing workplace discrimination.
“I’m not sure if we’re doing a disservice to us women,” Cristina Antoñanzas of the General Union of Workers, or UGT, told Cadena Ser. The idea that women required time off work while menstruating risked “stigmatizing women,” she added.
Others described a monthly leave policy as long overdue.
“If we men had periods, this leave would have come decades ago. That is the problem,” Íñigo Errejón, the leader of the left-wing party Más País, said on Twitter.
A handful of local governments in Spain already have embraced the idea. The Catalan city of Girona said in June 2021 that it would allow its more than 1,300 municipal employees up to eight hours of menstrual leave a month and give them up to three months to make up any time used.
Similar policies were adopted for municipal workers in the Catalan municipalities of Ripoll and Les Borges Blanques, as well as in the eastern city of Castellón de la Plana.
AP reporter Joseph Wilson reported from Barcelona, Spain. Frances D’Emilio in Rome contributed to this report.