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Period Products (Free Provision) Act (Northern Ireland) 2022

Section 1: Provision of free period products: Department scheme

Section 1 of the Act places a duty on the Executive Office to make period products obtainable free of charge within Northern Ireland by all persons who need to use them, in accordance with arrangements established and maintained by the Executive Office (section 1(1)). “Period products” are defined by section 8(a) as “manufactured articles the purpose of which is to absorb or collect menstrual flow”.

The Act gives the Executive Office discretion as regards the precise arrangements made, but those arrangements must be consistent with the duty to make period products obtainable free of charge. For example, the Executive Office’s arrangements could require a person to register for a card in order to obtain free period products at a particular location, e.g. from a pharmacy, similar to the current “C card” scheme. However, those unable to register for a card should be able to obtain free products via other arrangements made. The arrangements put in place must also respect the particular requirements set out in section 3, which are that products should be accessible with reasonable ease and in a way that respects dignity, privacy and confidentiality of product users; that a reasonable choice of different types of products is obtainable; and that the availability of such products, and the arrangements for obtaining them, is advertised.

Under the arrangements, the free period products must be obtainable by another person on behalf of the person who needs the products (section 1(3)(a)). This allows, for example, a parent to obtain products for a child or a carer to obtain products for the person they care for. The Department may also include delivery options in its arrangements for ensuring that period products are obtainable free of charge, and may require the person to whom the products are delivered to pay costs associated with packing and delivery, except where the person could not be reasonably expected to obtain the products in any other way (section 1(3)(b)). For example, if a person who needs to obtain free period products has a disability, it may not be reasonable to expect them to collect products if all locations at which the Department is making products obtainable are at some distance from that person’s residence. Whether or not packing and delivery are free or charged for, the period products themselves must be free of charge.

A person is entitled to obtain (or have someone else obtain on their behalf) sufficient products to meet their needs “while in Northern Ireland” (section 1(2)). For a person who lives in Northern Ireland, all their needs are to be regarded as arising while in Northern Ireland (section 1(8)). So, for a person who lives in Northern Ireland, products are obtainable for use in Northern Ireland and elsewhere, for example if the person is going on holiday. In contrast, visitors to Northern Ireland are only entitled to obtain, free of charge, such period products as they need during their stay in Northern Ireland.

The Department must consult on its proposed arrangements, including on where products should be obtainable, which types of product should be obtainable and the ways in which free products should be obtainable (section 1(4)), and publish a written statement describing the consultation and the arrangements to be put in place (section 1(5)) and publish, annually, information about where the free period products are obtainable (section 1(6) and (7)).

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Explanatory Notes

Text created by the Northern Ireland Assembly department responsible for the subject matter of the Act to explain what the Act sets out to achieve and to make the Act accessible to readers who are not legally qualified. Explanatory Notes accompany all Acts of the Northern Ireland Assembly.


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