Premenstrual mood disorder
Italy may become the first western country to offer all women paid time off for menstrual pains iStock

Italy may become the first western country to offer paid "menstrual leave" to all women in the workplace.

Four lawmakers from the centre-left Democratic Party have proposed the bill, which would mean companies must offer three paid days off each month to women who could produce a doctor's note showing they suffered severe menstrual pain.

Although some southeast Asian countries already allow women suffering menstrual pains time off, Italy would become the first western nation to do so.

In the country just 48% of women are employed and, on average, earn 20% less than their male colleagues.

Some employers in the country often ask women to sign undated resignation letters which must be produced in the event of them becoming pregnant.

One of the MPs backing the bill, Simonetta Rubinato, said: "Some women have said to me, 'You are finally thinking of the difficulty we face.'

"But others, including women in our party, have attacked us, saying, 'We've attained equality and this sets us back.' "

'Progress and social sustainability'

It is hoped the measures, if implemented, would make workers feel happier and more comfortable in their jobs, with the Italian edition of women's magazine Marie Claire describing the motion as "a standard-bearer of progress and social sustainability".

But other voices fear the move could hamper women's ability to progress in the workplace.

The Washington Post spoke to Daniela Piazzalunga, an economist at research institute FBK-IRVAPP, who said: "Women are already taking days off because of menstrual pains, but the new law would allow them to do so without using sick leaves or other permits.

"However, on the other hand I wouldn't exclude that [if the law is approved] this would lead to negative repercussions: The demand for female employees among companies might decrease, or women could be further penalised both in terms of salary and career advancement."

Japan, Indonesia, South Korea and Taiwan have all introduced laws allowing women paid time off work for menstrual pain.

And global sportswear brand Nike introduced menstrual leave for its female workers in 2007.