ACT public service employees could be given access to specific menstruation and menopause leave, with the government agreeing to look into how this could be made possible.
Labor backbencher Suzanne Orr has also asked the Territory Government to develop a Menstruation and Menopause Policy.
Ms Orr said the purpose of such a policy would be to help employees meet their work commitments while managing the impacts of both menopause and menstruation.
As it stands, women who menstruate are required to use their personal and other leave to help manage their periods or menopausal symptoms as there’s no dedicated leave available.
Ms Orr has been a passionate campaigner on the issue of period stigma.
“For centuries women were kept out of the workforce because of their reproductive roles in society,” she said.
“While we’ve seen this change in what are still relatively recent times, there remains much to do to achieve true equality in employment including how we support women’s reproductive health in the workforce.
“People who are menstruating or experiencing menopause are not sick or injured yet the only way they can get support in the workplace to manage the impacts of their period or menopause is to treat them as though they are. It does not have to be this way and we can do better.”
Ms Orr said this particular push had been inspired by feedback on her Period Products and Facilities (Access) Bill 2022.
That bill calls on the government to make period products free at designated locations across the Territory.
It also requires the provision of bathroom facilities so people can use these products in a private and hygienic manner, although that would only apply to public service and Territory-funded worksites.
Inquiries into those proposed laws are ongoing.
Period poverty – the lack of access to sanitary products, menstrual hygiene education, toilets, hand-washing facilities and waste management – was shown to affect 15 per cent respondents to Share the Dignity’s Bloody Big Survey in July 2021.
The idea of menstruation and menopause leave isn’t entirely without precedent in the Territory.
Women’s Health Matters, which is the ACT’s peak body for Women’s Health, has recently introduced a Reproductive Health Policy in their workplace.
CEO Lauren Anthes said such policies can help normalise reproductive health and improve gender equality in the workplace.
“Reproductive health policies provide leave and flexibility for employees for reproductive health and sexual health related needs,” she said.
“We know that reproductive health needs, including those related to menstruation and menopause, can be complex, change over time and vary significantly across individuals.”
The motion passed the Assembly with tri-partisan support on Thursday 13 October.
ACT Greens MLA Jo Clay said it was great to see a “menstruation revolution” taking place.
Canberra Liberals MLA Leanne Castley said women and girls should be able to speak to their employer and schools about issues relating to menstruation and menopause.
The ACT Government now has until May next year to report on how menstruation and menopause leave could be implemented, along with a progress report about the Menstruation and Menopause Policy.
Ms Orr has also called for an education and awareness campaign to be rolled out across the public service.