Ontario to require menstrual products on construction sites

Advocates say the conversation around periods is long overdue.

Charmaine Williams, Brampton Centre MPP (right) and David Piccini, minister of labour (middle) meet with female construction workers.

Key Takeaways:

  • The measures would require menstrual products be provided on larger construction sites, keep washroom facilities clean and expand definitions of workplace harassment to include online environments.
  • If passed, Ontario would be the first province in Canada to have a menstrual product policy for women in construction.
  • Female construction leaders praised the changes but believe more work needs to be done to support underrepresented groups in the sector.

The Whole Story:

Ontario is poised to make Canadian history with new legislation that would require menstrual products on construction sites.

The province announced that it is introducing the Working for Workers Five Act, 2024 which contains a suite of measures to support workers, including requiring that menstrual products be provided on larger construction sites and mandating that washrooms are clean and sanitary. Officials say the legislation is the first of its kind in Canada and would make the skilled trades more accessible to women.

“Under Premier Ford, our government is tackling the generational labour shortage previous governments left in their wake. That means we need all hands on deck – but when women represent only one in ten workers in the skilled trades, we have one hand tied behind our back,” said David Piccini, minister of labour, immigration, training and skills development. “That’s why our government is introducing first-in-Canada changes to encourage women to start a career in the skilled trades and reach their full potential. Because an economy that doesn’t work for women doesn’t work at all.”

Ontario’s proposed amendments would also add virtual harassment to the definitions of workplace harassment and workplace sexual harassment in the Occupational Health and Safety Act, ensuring that workplace policies to address harassment in the workplace also cover digital environments.

The government also plans to engage with survivors of harassment, legal experts and other stakeholders to identify the most effective legislative or regulatory means to create a duty to act for employers where investigations have identified workplace harassment has occurred.

Female construction leaders believe the conversation around women’s periods is long overdue.

Jamie West, a board director at the Canadian Association of Women in Construction and president of Peninsula Construction, was supportive of the measures but believes this is just the beginning of a broader effort needed to support women and other underrepresented groups. 

“I think it is a bit alarming that in 2024 we are talking about this like it’s a breakthrough, like it is a luxury,” she said. “We need to start normalizing conversations around periods and menstrual products and start seeing that they are an unavoidable part of our life and access to these products should be like accessing toilet paper or soap, especially on a work site in tricky environments. Having access to these products can eliminate the stress and embarrassment women can feel.” 

West explained that female health issues are rarely discussed in the industry, noting that most women do not know exactly when their period is coming which can leave them unprepared. As a result they are forced to improvise with Kleenex, toilet paper or whatever else is on hand.

She added that women also often hide when an issue arises and do not seek assistance for fear of being mocked or bullied. This is all compounded when working on a remote site where proper washroom facilities might not be available. 

West also expressed support for measures that expand the definition of workplace harassment to include virtual spaces. She noted that this provides clarity around bullying and harassment through email, texts, chat services and other digital methods. 

“Expanding that definition is important. It protects workers by ensuring labour laws and policies are applicable to all work settings,” she said. 

West noted that it is just the start of the conversation around protecting minorities and vulnerable groups. She explained that another step in the right direction would be including menstrual products in all bathrooms: male, female or unisex. This would support transgender workers, adding that construction is one of the largest employers of transgender people. 

“Once we normalize periods, have these conversations and have access to these products, we are going to mitigate some of the embarrassment and stress women face in the workplace,” she said.  

Additional measures to address safety in construction will include a comprehensive review of critical injuries and fatalities in the construction sector and a consultation on expanding the types of life-saving equipment, such as defibrillators, to be provided on construction projects.

Government officials visit an Ontario construction site to announce new legislation that aims to support women on the job site.


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