Period Products (Free Provision) (Scotland) Act 2021: guidance – September 2021

Guidance for responsible bodies about the exercise of the functions conferred on them by the Period Products (Free Provision) (Scotland) Act 2021.

Part A - Guidance for all responsible bodies

There are a number of overarching principles which all responsible bodies should follow in discharging their duties under all sections of the Act. These are covered in Part A.

1. Meeting individual needs

The Act states in both Section 1 and Section 2 that sufficient products must be obtainable for free to meet a product user's needs either while in Scotland (Section 1) or during term time (Section 2). In relation to Section 3 sufficient products should be obtainable to meet an individual's needs while they are on the premises.

There must be no judgement as to the need, no limit to the amount of products an individual can take, nor attempts to 'ration' products. Individuals don't need a reason to access the products, above and beyond the fact that they menstruate, however individual needs in terms of period products could vary considerably due to the reason for the need arising, including

a) a period starting unexpectedly or forgetting to bring a product from home

b) ongoing need due to low income

c) ongoing need for another reason

d) higher than average need due to a medical condition

All of the above are valid reasons for needing to access free products, however it may be that, following consultation, different arrangements are put in place to meet different needs, e.g. single products or bulk supply available in different places. However in all cases, an individual should be able to access sufficient products to meet their needs and the principles set out in this Guidance should be met, regardless of how the need arises. Care must be taken to ensure that the frequency of restocking products is sufficient to meet demand.

2. Local Arrangements

The Act requires responsible bodies to meet their duties by establishing and maintaining arrangements for making period products obtainable for free. They have flexibility as to how they do this in practice; however, the arrangements put in place must respect the particular requirements set out below and bodies must consult with relevant people before putting in place their arrangements (see Consultation below). All responsible bodies must also produce a Statement on Exercise of Functions that summarises the arrangements that will be put in place to meet the duty.

3. Particular requirements

The Act specifies particular requirements that the arrangements put in place by all responsible bodies must meet, namely that they must make products reasonably easy to obtain, respect dignity and offer a reasonable choice of types of period products.

Reasonably easily

Where and how free products can be obtained should be neither complex nor bureaucratic. As described in the Dignity section below, products should be freely accessible from places where individuals are comfortable doing so without having to ask for them, or justify why they need them or the amount that is needed. However in relation to rural areas for example, different approaches may be needed to take account of the limited number of locations where products could be obtained.

There is no requirement on responsible bodies to provide their full range of products in a single, or every, location. It may be the case that individual products are accessible in certain locations while bulk products may be obtained from others. Reasonable ease should include ease of physical access for those with physical disabilities or mobility issues.

Providing information to the public should contribute to the products being reasonably easy to obtain. In addition there should be no forms to complete or other information required before people can access products, unless this information is necessary to respond to local asks around design or to allow postal delivery.

Respect for Dignity

Period products should be obtainable in a way that respects the dignity of individuals obtaining them. This principle has been in place since Scottish Government first made a commitment to make period products available for free. Dignity should therefore already be underpinning voluntary delivery, however it becomes a statutory requirement when the Act comes into force.

While progress has been made in recent years to tackle the stigma associated with menstruation and period products, people who need to access period products for free may still find this an embarrassing situation and any potential embarrassment should be minimised as much as possible. Therefore, the ways in which, and places where, products are made obtainable should consider the needs and wishes of users in relation to privacy (including for religious and/or cultural reasons) and avoiding anxiety or embarrassment. One example of avoiding embarrassment may be to consider discreet packaging, particularly where products are obtained from busy locations.

As part of wider work to tackle the stigma around menstruation and period products, responsible bodies should consider the importance of normalisation and visibility. Offering a dignified response does not necessarily require hiding products away. There is no statutory definition of dignity in relation to the Act. However, a dignified approach would ensure that products could be easily accessed in a place where individuals are comfortable doing so, as identified through consultation. Individuals having to

  • ask someone for products
  • justify why they need them
  • justify the amount that is needed

would not generally be considered a dignified approach. However, different arrangements may be put in place to access free reusable products which may require individuals to ask for these products, given the significantly increased cost over single use products.

Reasonable Choice

Which type of period product an individual uses is a matter of personal preference that responsible bodies must take into account when deciding which products to make available free of charge in meeting their duty.

Within the Act period products are defined as

"manufactured articles the purpose of which is to absorb or collect menstrual flow".

The Act further states that "types of period products include tampons, sanitary towels and articles which are reusable".

Responsible bodies are required to provide for a reasonable choice of different period products to be available, although the full range of products does not have to be available in all locations or through all delivery methods.

In terms of this requirement local authorities and education providers would be expected to make at least one type of tampon, sanitary towel and reusable product available.

Responsible bodies must consult on the types of products that people would like to be made available. Responsible bodies should not make assumptions about which products particular individuals may wish to use, and should take account of consultation responses on this point. They are not obliged to make particular brands of products available, nor every absorbency of a particularly type of product, merely a reasonable choice should be available. However best practice, and meeting individual needs, in relation to offering reasonable choice would include offering a choice of different sizes and/or absorbencies of single use products and, in relation to local authorities, more than one type of reusable product. It may be that greater choice is provided for bulk product supplies than for single products.

Consideration of the environmental impact of single use period products

The environmental impact of single use period products is considerable and there is growing interest in reusable period products. All responsible bodies should consider the most appropriate way to make reusable period products available for free for those who wish to use those types of products. There should be no pressure applied to people who do not wish to use reusable products but consideration should be given to making sustainable or plastic-free products available as part of the choice of products.

Consultation by responsible bodies should cover which types of reusable products people may wish to be able to obtain and the appropriateness of putting in place different arrangements for obtaining them as mentioned above.


Dundee University: "We have built in a strong commitment to environmental sustainability, purchasing products made with 100% organic cotton materials and will purchase [ ] biodegradable products for the incoming academic year. Our project lead contributed to research by Edinburgh University around the environmental sustainability of sanitary products in 2019/2020 and discussed how this fits in with the UN sustainability goals".

4. Inclusion

Not everyone who menstruates identifies as female, therefore as part of ensuring a dignified approach, responsible bodies must ensure that the arrangements put in place to meet their duties allow any individual who menstruates, including transgender men and non-binary individuals, to access products. The language that is used in consultation, published arrangements and delivery should be considerate of equalities. In addition, in some cases men may wish to access products for free for family members or partners.

In practice this is likely to require products to be available for free in, for example, at least some gender neutral toilets, disabled toilets (where these are recommended for use by people who menstruate but do not wish to use female toilets), or male-only spaces. A proportionate approach is acceptable, as long as it is clear to everyone, whether they need to use products themselves, or they are collecting products on behalf of someone else, where they can access free products. No-one should be asked for the reason they are collecting products.

5. Statement on Exercise of Functions

Each responsible body must publish a written statement setting out how they will exercise their functions under the Act. Responsible bodies must publish their first statement as soon as is reasonably practicable after receiving this Guidance and can publish subsequent statements at any time in the future. Responsible bodies may wish to undertake periodic review of local arrangements, consultation and publication of a new statement.

Before drafting a statement, responsible bodies must undertake consultation as set out below.

The statement must explain how the body has met the Particular Requirements set out in section 4 of the Act and how it has had regard to this Guidance. It must also include a summary of the arrangements put in place for making period products obtainable free of charge and the plans for making information available to individuals about how and where they can access free products. It would be good practice for the statement to include how the responsible body undertook consultation, including who was consulted.

Each statement produced under this section is to be published by the responsible body, however the format of the statement, or where it should be published are not mandated in the Act. Responsible bodies should consider how to make this statement accessible to all.

Local authorities have duties under sections 1 and 2. It is acceptable for a single statement on exercise of functions to be produced, but the statement must separately set out the arrangements for duties in relation to access to free products in schools (under section 2) and more widely (under section 1). Local authorities may alternatively publish two separate statements.

6. Consultation

The Act requires responsible bodies to consult with individuals on the arrangements that should be put in place to fulfil their duties.

To ensure that the arrangements meet people's needs, responsible bodies should consult with individuals who may either

a) need to use free products currently

b) need to use products in the future or

c) need to collect products on behalf of someone who needs to use products (Section 1 duties only)

The consultation that is carried out by all responsible bodies should be open to those of any gender identity and accessible by individuals of any age. Consideration should be given to producing materials that are child and youth friendly.

The consultation should seek the views of respondents to the points below. Responsible bodies would not be meeting their duties under Section 7 if they simply set out a statement of what the arrangements will be and ask individuals whether they are content. However it would be acceptable for responsible bodies to seek feedback on existing voluntary provision and on any changes that people think are needed to this as part of the statutory consultation. Some specific issues must be covered in the consultation:

  • the premises in which (in relation to section 1 duties only), and where in those premises, period products ought to be obtainable free of charge
  • the ways in which product users ought to be able to obtain period products free of charge, and
  • the types of period products which ought to be obtainable free of charge.

7. Information to be provided to the public

The Act requires responsible bodies to make information available to people about the arrangements in place through which they can obtain free period products under sections 1 and 2. The people who need to be informed are, under section 1, members of the public in the local authority area and under section 2, pupils or students. The information that must be provided is

a) that period products are obtainable free of charge and

b) how, where and when people can obtain free products.

Responsible bodies have the flexibility to choose how to make this information available. The Period Products Locator App developed by Hey Girls is a resource that is available for responsible bodies who wish to use it to make this information available, but it should also be available in different formats, for example via posters or on websites. Responsible bodies should consider how to make information accessible to all.

8. Risk management

A number of risks have been identified over the course of the voluntary delivery to date including

  • provision of safety information in relation to loose products (see below)
  • blood spillages in public facilities related to reusable products
  • risks resulting from poor storage conditions
  • products going out of date

Any risks identified should be considered and managed through the responsible body's appropriate procedures.

Safety information

Where tampons are being supplied loose from their packaging (for example, single tampons available from a basket of products within a washroom) and therefore do not have the accompanying safety information leaflet that would be included in a box of tampons, for public health purposes, it is recommended that responsible bodies provide that information to those accessing the products, e.g. via a poster at the point of collection. An example of the type of information responsible bodies might wish to convey is set out in an Annex to this Guidance.

9. Value for money

Although the Act does not specify the need to consider value for money, responsible bodies will wish to consider how they can best achieve this. It is likely that some delivery methods such as free-vending machines or home delivery (in relation to Section 1) will be more expensive and responsible bodies will wish to consider this as they put in place local arrangements.

To aid value for money via the Scottish Government funded voluntary provision that began in 2018, a procurement framework was put in place by Scotland Excel, the Centre of Procurement Expertise for the local government sector. The Washroom Solutions Procurement Framework provides Local Authorities and education providers with a mechanism to procure a range of products and services including sanitary waste disposal and the provision of period products. A new Framework will be in place from October 2022.

Responsible bodies may choose to procure products through different routes and this may involve local value for money assessments.



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