Skip to main content
Access every election story that matters
Enjoy unlimited digital access
$1.99
per week for 24 weeks
Access every election story that matters
Enjoy unlimited digital access
$1.99
per week
for 24 weeks
// //

Labour Minister Filomena Tassi responds to a question during Question Period in the House of Commons on Dec. 3, 2020 in Ottawa.

Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press

Canada’s Labour Minister was told earlier this year that efforts to provide free tampons and pads in federally regulated workplaces could cost employers more than $1-million annually to become a reality.

The March briefing note to Filomena Tassi estimated the annual employer costs would likely be $1.17-million to provide free tampons and pads, based on an annual, per-employee cost of almost $60 and assuming a 50-per-cent take-up rate.

A 100-per-cent take-up rate would put the cost closer to $2.3-million annually.

Story continues below advertisement

Officials noted the numbers may understate the need and demand because it only accounted for women and not all employees who menstruate.

Ms. Tassi says in a statement that officials spoke in early June with experts about outstanding questions and issues with the idea, and plan to speak with labour and employer groups over the summer and fall.

She says the government is “firmly committed” to moving forward on the issue after the coming consultations.

“Menstrual products are a basic need for many Canadians, however they are often not treated as such,” Ms. Tassi said in a statement. “Simply put, menstruation is a fact of life, and part of supporting the health and safety of employees.”

The government first outlined the proposed change to the labour code two years ago in May, 2019, but it wasn’t until last October that labour officials decided to look at the issue anew when the government was presented with a petition.

Officials wrote to Ms. Tassi that they estimate about 40 per cent of the federal work force uses menstrual products, “which highlights the far-reaching implications of this initiative.”

Getting a better handle on the situation in workplaces, and the ability of employers to manage the additional requirements, was problematic.

Story continues below advertisement

The briefing note says stakeholders were stretched to take part in talks on new initiatives because of the pandemic and myriad consultations on other regulatory issues.

Federal labour officials have heard repeated concerns from workers about the lack of menstrual products in workplaces, and worries that it could lead to hygiene and health issues particularly if, as the briefing note says, workers turn to “unsuitable improvised solutions” or “extend the use of products beyond their recommended time frame.”

Some workers may avoid coming to work completely because of the “shame and stigma that often surrounds menstruation,” officials noted.

The note also said workers in federally regulated sectors such as airports could also face higher costs if a period starts unexpectedly as convenience stores or airport pharmacies have “significant cost markups on the price of the produce.”

Issues were also flagged with workers who may be in rural or remote locations, which Ms. Tassi’s office noted as an issue that needed further clarity for employees with multiple or remote workplaces like truckers.

The proposed change to the Canada Labour Code’s sanitation provisions are also likely to come with an administrative amendment to recognize gender-neutral washrooms.

Story continues below advertisement

The labour code sets out the number of toilets that employers have to provide based on sex, but doesn’t count all-gender or gender-neutral toilets if those are the only toilets provided.

“Fear of harassment and stigma can prevent gender diverse employees from using the washroom when needed, causing physical discomfort, which can be disruptive to daily activities at work,” officials wrote to Ms. Tassi.

“As a result, employers are increasingly providing all-gender washrooms for their employees.”

Know what is happening in the halls of power with the day’s top political headlines and commentary as selected by Globe editors (subscribers only). Sign up today.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow topics related to this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors

This content appears as provided to The Globe by the originating wire service. It has not been edited by Globe staff.

Report an error
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies