Breakthrough for CWU’s Period Poverty campaign as BT provides free sanitary products


Sustained lobbying by the CWU has prompted BT Group to adopt an industry-leading position on the provision of free sanitary products for female employees across its UK operations.

At the suggestion of the union, the formal launch of the initiative – which directly fulfills the objectives of the CWU’s Period Poverty campaign– was timed to coincide with Sunday’s International Women’s Day celebrations, meaning that rollout started for real on Monday across not just BT UK but also Openreach, EE and Plusnet.

Placing BT Group in the vanguard of major private sector companies to adopt a measure which, to date, has generally been associated with the public and not-for-profit sector, the move follows the successful conclusion of a trial that was initiated following a high profile debate at CWU Annual Conference last year.

Discussion with the company on the issue had already commenced prior to Conference – but the pressure to put the idea to the test gained impetus after Telecoms & Financial Services Conference delegates unanimously agreed that BT should follow the lead of a then comparatively small but growing number of organisations which had already adopted the policy of providing sanitary products in women’s toilets free of charge.

Proposing the motion last May, Mel Gorrie of Scotland No.1 said: “Originally schools in Scotland brought this in; that then extended to churches, football stadiums and a number of other places – including CWU head office – but not yet BT.

“Come on BT,” she stressed: “Set yourself apart from the average employer and go above and beyond for your female members of staff.”

That theme was amplified by Executive speaker Tracey Fussey, who insisted: “These are not luxury products, they’re a necessity – just the same as access to toilet paper, which I’m sure we all agree is kind of expected!

“The provision of free products in the workplace is a small but necessary gesture that makes workplaces more inclusive and welcoming for women….and we believe that by taking this step, BT can show it leads by example,”

Following further discussions between the CWU and BT Group a trial commenced last autumn involving Doncaster call centre, Leeds Sovereign Street, the OpenStreet training centre in Bradford, Bristol Temple Point and amongst female Openreach engineers in Scotland – culminating in the decision to press ahead with this week’s national rollout.

Welcoming the message that BT’s decision sends  out to wider British industry, assistant secretary Dave Jukes said: “This is a really positive thing for a major employer to do and BT deserves credit for the enlightened position it has taken – as does the CWU for the pivotal role it has played in pressing this issue forward to its successful conclusion.

“It was the union that suggested the idea in the first place, and sustained lobbying by the CWU that resulted in the launch of the trial, which we jointly monitored with the company, from the outset.

“The feedback the union has received from members involved with the trial was fantastic – effectively providing the final impetus for a BT to essentially agree to with the terms of Motion 72 from last year’s CWU T&FS Conference in Bournemouth – and I think that’s something of which we can be justly proud.”

  • Under the scheme, free sanitary products will be provided in the women’s toilets at all of BT Group’s major workplaces – with special arrangements being made to supply the products to female engineers and other employees working in remote and rural locations.