Period poverty: the realities of low pay

Ruth blogs for us about the successful campaign in the Scottish Government group to provide free sanitary products.

In the Scottish Government free sanitary protection has been available to staff since 2018. Behind this announcement was a larger PCS campaign, and work on this is still continuing.

Period poverty is when a person can’t afford to access the products they need during their period. It was shocking for Scottish Government Group members to discover that some members in SG and across the civil service are in precisely this position.

Reps were first made aware when we received an email from a member telling us that some women where she worked couldn’t afford tampons or towels every month and were using tissue paper from the dispenser. Coming on top of the discovery that some of our own members are reporting having to use food banks, it really brought home for us the realities of low pay in the civil service.

In early 2018 Leith branch took a collection of toiletries and sanitary protection to Shakti Women’s Aid. The branch executive committee decided to do the same for its own branch, put out boxes for people to take free protection, and filled the boxes partly themselves and partly from donations. The group executive committee also raised a motion to group conference calling for the provision of free period products, passed unanimously…days later, the Permanent Secretary made the announcement. Coincidence?

Products have now been placed in the female and gender neutral toilets (in larger buildings) or in all toilets (in smaller buildings). The takeup has been excellent and implementation has been fairly cheap. Where products have been used up, staff have been confident in calling the facilities department for replacements, and some people have even brought in their own supplies to restock. While that’s not necessary, it shows the level of commitment people feel to the scheme. Further developments are planned including research into reusable products.

Now moves are afoot to bring free sanitary products to the whole of the civil service. The PCS Scottish “Women to the Front” seminar members have been campaigning for this under the hashtag #aboutbleedingtime, and have contacted the PCS national executive committee and various other bodies. The NEC has a commitment from national conference in 2018 to campaign for free period products across the sector.

Hopefully soon everyone will have the access they need to free towels and tampons.

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