Dignity at work includes being provided basic hygiene facilities. Toilet paper is essential and so are sanitary items like tampons and pads. No one chooses to bleed – it’s just a fact of life like going to the toilet.

During the Covid lockdowns, RAFFWU members and essential workers campaigned for employers to provide free pads and tampons in the workplace.

We don’t bring toilet paper with us to work. Work should provide pads and tampons.

Providing sanitary items at work means we have access to pads and tampons when we need them. They’re bloody essential, and we’re bloody essential too.

Essential items should be free

Many workers in retail and fast food are young, and can experience their first period at work.

Many people have irregular menstrual cycles. Workers can start menstruating while on shift, only becoming aware on a bathroom break.

Retail and fast food workers are paid low wages and can’t always afford essential items.

All of these and more are good reasons why employers should provide essential sanitary items for free, especially in a cost-of-living crisis when these items have become more and more expensive.

Below are testimonies from essential workers and RAFFWU members who have campaigned for period dignity and free sanitary items at work.

If this campaign interests you, get in touch with RAFFWU. Together, workers can organise and win!

For almost the entirety of my menstruating life to-date I have been an essential retail worker. There are endless stories I could tell of bleeding into my uniform after a period coming unexpectedly, and using toilet paper to suffice until I got home, or had the time to buy pads or tampons. Stories of my co-workers asking in the locker room if I could spare a tampon because it has happened to them.

For me, period dignity is about respect. From a young age I had been conditioned to feel shame and embarrassment for my period. Period stigma can be felt around the world in many different cultures today and throughout history. It is a different time now, it is time to celebrate the diversity of menstruating people around the world and join the global fight to end period poverty.

As low income earners, period poverty is prevalent in the retail and fast food industry. I call on retailers and fast food outlets to provide these products to workers in the workplace. Allow us to feel the dignity and respect we deserve because we’re bloody essential.

– Sophie, Coles Toowong, RAFFWU Delegate & Organiser

We’re asking for a supportive work environment around a bodily function that can occur without warning. A tea break is not restful if that time is taken to buy sanitary supplies. We’re worth the investment of sanitary supplies provided in bathrooms nationally.

– Karah, Coles

Working while menstruating is really, damn hard. At least a couple of days in every cycle I am a physical and emotional mess, and honestly feel like I should be congratulated for just making the shift, or at least provided with the means to get through the day.  The feeling of bleeding through the folded-up toilet paper I’m using in place of the tampon I didn’t bring to work is really uncomfortable and totally degrading, especially if this situation escalates to visible leaks. I work in bicycle retail which is totally male-dominated and services a pretty bro-ey clientele, which makes free bleeding at work additionally humiliating. Like toilet paper, tampons and pads should be free on demand, on the job.

– Charlotte, Bicycle Retailer

I believe period products should be free. I grew up in a household with two sisters and a single mum, so we went through $50 worth of these products a month, and being low-income, this was a lot. I strongly believe that one’s income should not impact their access to hygiene products, least of all ones that are for a bodily function we cannot control. I also think the sustainable options, such as menstrual cup should also be considered.

–  Shannon, Coles

There have been occasions when I have gotten my period at work and didn’t have any pads or tampons with me. I end up spending half my break going downstairs to buy products which I have to do in front of my coworkers and customers. It is important for Coles and other business to provide access to period products to support their employees and so they feel comfortable at work while they are on their period.

– Kiara, Coles

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