Should sanitary products be freely available in female toilets?
“I’m the Director of my Company, and before we put tampons and pads in all of our bathrooms, I used to walk to the toilet with a tampon tucked up my sleeve (lack of pockets in women’s clothing could be a future topic for AXIS!), praying that nobody would stop to talk to me on my way…” (AXIS Member)
Over recent years, there has been increased opening up of the conversation around periods, menopause, and sanitary products. Periods and menopause are something that most women will experience, but the experience is unique, varies, and changes over the course of a woman’s life, even month-to-month the experience can vary.
Governments across the world have launched several initiatives to end period poverty and destigmatise menstruation through the launch of “free access” schemes.
Whilst it could be argued that people in full-time employment are less likely to be affected by period poverty, just menstruating in itself can be a factor which differentiates your working experience from others – not to mention it is not uncommon to be “caught off guard”. For our workplaces to be more inclusive, we’d like to propose that sanitary products should be freely available to employees & visitors in our offices.
Providing free sanitary products into office toilets (and not forgetting a route to dispose of them – offshore, we’re looking at you!), supports all people menstruating by ensuring dignity and being equitable. Sanitary products are essential hygiene products, no different from soap or toilet roll. It’s likely this wouldn’t be the main provision for most staff but would allow them to access as a back-up or emergency supply, so outgoing cost is low (whilst sanitary products are available for free in Scotland, we recognise that most professional organisations will choose to buy them). It’s more about the gesture of proactive inclusion.
So, what can your organisation do?
Provide a small choice of freely available sanitary products in female toilets, adding this to however you currently procure other washroom supplies
Normalise periods! Talk about what you’re doing and why, encourage the conversation to destigmatise periods, and show support for those menstruating
Seek feedback on employee response to the initiative – key metrics of success might include employee feelings of inclusion and equity, destigmatising, positive knock-on impact into other areas, retention
We already know a few of our signatories have this in place, and hope we’ll encourage many more of you to do it too. If you do, please share and let us know how it’s received!
Resources to support further reading: