The federal government is seeking public feedback to its recently proposed Regulations Amending Certain Regulations Made Under the Canada Labour Code (Menstrual Products), which would require federally regulated employers to provide menstrual products in workplaces. The proposed regulations are intended to better protect the physical and psychological health risks of menstruating employees as a result of inadequate access to menstrual products in the workplace.
Employers can share their feedback on the anticipated changes until November 13, 2022.
The Proposed Regulations
The proposed regulations would amend the occupational health and safety regulations in five federally regulated industries to require those federally regulated employers to provide menstrual products, including clean tampons and menstrual pads for employees in washrooms, regardless of their marked gender. Under the regulations, the employer will still have the freedom to decide what products they make available and they are not required to consult with employees in deciding which brands or products to provide.
Given the range of industries that span across federally regulated workplaces, if it is not feasible to provide menstrual products in a washroom, the proposed regulations would provide flexibility to allow employers the ability to provide menstrual products in other locations of the workplace that employees can always access and that offer reasonable privacy.
Administrative monetary penalties would be imposed on employers who fail to comply with the regulations.
Will this Continue to Trend?
A number of large, public organizations have also implemented regulations to provide free menstrual products to employees in workplaces, as addressing systemic inequities faced by vulnerable populations and advancing gender equality in the workplace is continuing to become a more prominent goal for both employers and governmental actors. Several organizations, including Ontario public school boards, the University of Toronto, and the City of Mississauga have all implemented policies to ensure free menstrual products are provided at their facilities. Heightened public awareness and acknowledgement that menstrual products are necessary to the health and safety of a considerable proportion of Canadians, along with increased research on these issues and both the financial and mental impacts of access to these products indicate that demand for employers to implement similar policies will continue to rise.
Takeaways for Employers
As calls to break down barriers to equality continues to garner support, implementing a policy to provide free menstrual products in the workplace may become a relevant consideration for employers moving forward. Considerations that employers should be aware of are the additional operating costs, that will presumably be borne by the employer, of purchasing menstrual products, maintaining them in a sanitary condition, and possibly installing product dispensers.
However, given that most workplaces are provincially regulated, this regulation, even if it comes into force, will not affect the majority of employers in Ontario. The Ontario government continues to operate independent of federal decisions and it remains to be seen whether similar legislation to mandate menstrual products in the workplace will be proposed provincially.