Free menstrual products are now available to thousands of employees at federally regulated workplaces across Canada.

As of Friday, employers are required to provide menstrual products at no cost to many private and public sector employees in those regulated industries, according to the federal government.

That means putting pads and tampons in washrooms or other accessible and private spaces so that any worker who needs them while on the job has access, Employment and Social Development Canada said in a news release Friday.

The changes will benefit nearly 500,000 employees in the federally regulated labour force, the government said.

Workplaces where free menstrual products will be available include banks, postal and courier services, telecommunications, radio and television broadcasting and the transport sector. That also includes airports and airlines, First Nations band councils and Indigenous self-governments, and most Crown corporations.

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They will also be free for Parliament Hill workers as well as private-sector firms and municipalities in Yukon, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut.

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The initiative is part of Ottawa’s push to improve equity, reduce stigma around periods and make workplaces more inclusive.

Labour Minister Seamus O’Regan said “this is a really important step forward.”

“Basically we don’t ask people to come with their own toilet paper. This is very much a fact of life for millions of employees,” he told reporters in Toronto on Friday.

O’Regan said 94 per cent of employees are within provincial jurisdiction, adding that provinces, territories and employers might follow suit and make menstrual products free as well.

“I think this is just a very natural evolution of what we should be doing and how we should be treating workers fairly in the workplace.”

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Free menstrual products now required in some Canadian workplaces

In September, the federal government announced it will fund $17.9 million to Food Banks Canada to run a national pilot program aimed at tackling challenges of affordability and stigma related to accessing menstrual products that many Canadians face.

The federal government removed the Goods and Services Tax from menstrual products in 2015 — also known as the “pink tax” — and other jurisdictions in Canada and the United States have followed suit.

At the same time, there has been a growing movement to provide free feminine hygiene products on campuses and in schools.

The cost of menstrual products varies significantly across the country.

A 40-pack of tampons in northern and remote communities can cost upwards of $15.

— with files from The Canadian Press

&copy 2023 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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