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M&S calls on government to abolish VAT on period pants

The retailer estimates its customers have paid more than £3m in VAT on period pants

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Marks & Spencer and period pants brand WUKA have called on the UK government to remove the 20 per cent VAT applied to period pants and have launched a petition for a parliamentary debate on the issue.

In the UK, period pants are classed as garments. However, other period products such as pads, tampons and menstrual cups are exempt from VAT.

Campaigners say reusable period products, such as period pants, can be worn, washed, and worn again, saving consumers money and helping them reduce plastic waste.

More than 50 signatories, including 35 MPs and peers and the charities Wellbeing of Women and Bloody Good Period, have put their name to a public letter to Victoria Atkins, the financial secretary to the Treasury, requesting that period pants are reclassified in this year’s autumn statement.

Say Pants to the Tax campaign will also call on the public to sign a parliamentary petition – at 100,000 signatures, the petition will be considered for debate in Parliament.

Victoria McKenzie-Gould, corporate affairs director at M&S, said: “The government made a brilliant start by removing VAT from disposable period products, but we need them to finish the job and level the playing field so that whatever period product someone chooses to use, it is VAT free.

“Nearly 25 per cent of women cite cost as a barrier to using period pants. If they were classified as they should be – as a period product – the government can make this brilliant alternative to disposable products, a more cost-effective option for UK consumers.”

Despite the government removing the “tampon tax” in 2021, M&S and WUKA estimate their customers alone have paid more than £3m in VAT on period pants.

Laura Charles, lingerie director at M&S, said: “Over the past few years, our customers have paid over £1.5m in tax but if this tax is removed, we can pass the entirety of the cost saving onto our customers.

“It’s great to have the support of so many brilliant individuals and organisations and we welcome all businesses to sign-our letter and help us say pants to the tax!”

Ruby Raut, CEO and founder at WUKA, added: “This is our third petition since 2021 calling for VAT on period pants to be removed.

“Abolishing this tax will not only make period pants more accessible to people who desperately need them but help us achieve our net-zero goals.

“WUKA’s carbon report published last year highlighted period pants have five times less carbon footprint compared to pads and tampons and that if 15 million people who menstruate in the UK switched to period pants, we would save more than four million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent from entering our atmosphere.

“This is an issue that affects us all- people and planet.”

M&S has pledged to pass the entirety of the cost saving onto customers, meaning that a three pack of period knickers that currently retail at £20 will be £16.

Sorina Mihaila is the Femtech World editor, covering technology, research and innovation in women's health and wellbeing.

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Start-up raises US4.2m to address disparities in women’s mental health

LunaJoy Health seeks to address the complex needs of high-risk women

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LunaJoy Health co-founders Sipra Laddha, MD and Shama Rathi, MD

The US telehealth start-up LunaJoy Health has raised US$4.2m in funding to address disparities in women’s mental health.

LunaJoy aims to eliminate inequalities in mental health and “redesign” the way women access care.

The platform, which offers mental health therapy, counselling and medication management, is developing care models that cater to underserved populations, providing care that seeks to address the complex needs of high-risk women.

The funding round, supported by Y Combinator, FoundersX Fund, Goodwater Capital, Magic Fund, VentureSouq, Nurture Ventures and NorthSouth Ventures, is hoped to help the company expand its capabilities and close disparities in maternal health care.

“The support from our investors, coupled with the current focus on maternal health improvements through TMaH funding, sets the stage for the change we need to see so badly across the industry,” said Sipra Laddha, co-founder and CEO of LunaJoy Health.

Mental health is a lifetime pursuit, and we want to design a way to engage and support women with a variety of needs and varying degrees of risk.

“By using technology, we can measure and treat symptoms more effectively, delivering a better service model to meet rising demand and a shortage of therapists in the US.”

This financial and strategic support, Laddha said, will help LunaJoy roll out its “novel” integrated care programme, LunaCare, across select communities in need of maternal mental health.

The investment will also facilitate the integration of advanced technology solutions to enhance care coordination and patient monitoring.

Surbhi Sarna, partner at Y Combinator, said: “LunaJoy Health’s mission to bring a new standard to maternal health care for Medicaid mothers aligns perfectly with our goal of supporting scalable solutions to the world’s most pressing challenges.

“We are proud to back such a vital initiative that promises significant impact.”

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New survey to ‘amplify’ marginalised voices in healthcare decision-making

UK charities enter partnership to address gender gap and advocate for inclusive healthcare policies

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The gynaecological health charity Cysters and Endometriosis UK have announced a partnership to amplify women’s voice in healthcare decision-making.

Despite progress in healthcare data collection, there remains a gap in representing the experiences of marginalised groups, particularly for those impacted by conditions and diseases like endometriosis.

Decision-makers in Parliament and the NHS often rely on data and statistics to inform policy and resource allocation. However, these datasets may not accurately reflect the experiences of marginalised communities.

A recent report from Endometriosis UK that gathered data on the experiences of being diagnosed with endometriosis in the UK found that whilst the ethnicity of respondents who identified as ‘white’ was proportionate to the data collected in the Census 2021, the remaining data was not illustrative of the ethnic diversity of the UK, with 15 per cent of respondents choosing not to respond to the ethnicity question.

To address this gap and advocate for inclusive healthcare policies, Cysters and Endometriosis UK are launching a new survey initiative aimed at amplifying the voices of marginalised groups in healthcare decision-making.

“We know that the current statistics are not inclusive of all communities, particularly marginalised groups,” said Neelam Heera-Shergill, founder of Cysters.

“By encouraging those from marginalised communities to share their experiences through this survey, they will be helping us to advocate for the changes that are needed, backed by evidence from their communities.

“In addition to delving into the diagnosis journey for people of colour and the unique barriers they encounter. We aim for this research and findings to pave the way for additional funded research on all menstrual-related conditions affecting people of colour.”

The survey seeks to gather insights into the experiences of marginalised communities, particularly concerning conditions and diseases like endometriosis.

Participants are encouraged to share their experiences openly and honestly, knowing that their responses will contribute to shaping more inclusive healthcare policies.

Sarah Harris, a researcher at Cysters, said: “We urge everyone to participate in this survey and share it far and wide. Together, we can ensure that all voices are considered in the conversation surrounding healthcare policy and resource allocation.”

The survey is anonymous and takes approximately 15 minutes to complete. To participate, visit Delayed Diagnosis of Endometriosis Among People of Colour in the UK Survey.

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Menstrual care start-up launches period equity initiative across college campuses

The initiative is hoped to facilitate access to period care and educate students on the use of more sustainable products

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Cherie Hoeger, founder and CEO of Saalt

The US menstrual care start-up Saalt has launched a new initiative aimed at addressing period poverty and environmental sustainability.

The Period Equity Initiative aims to reduce 100 million tampons from the environment while combatting period poverty.

Institutions, including Harvard University, Vanderbilt University, Northwestern University, the University of Utah and the University of Nebraska, are already participating in the programme.

One in five female college students in the US have had to decide between buying period products and paying for other basic essentials like food and other bills according to a nationwide survey.

The initiative, a direct response to the demand for more units for student populations, underscores the issue of period poverty, which affects students across America, challenging the misconception that it is solely an “overseas problem”.

Saalt aims to make period care accessible and affordable through the subsidisation of reusable period products, such as cups, discs, and period underwear, to participating universities and their campus affiliates.

The project is hoped to not only facilitate access to period care, but also educate students on the use of more sustainable products, which are designed to be reused rather than discarded.

“Every day we hear from customers about how life-changing Saalt cups are for them,” said Cherie Hoeger, founder and CEO of Saalt.

“Creating period equity and managing the environmental impact created by disposables are pressing matters that demand urgent attention and innovative solutions.

“Through our Period Equity Initiative, we’re taking a proactive approach to tackle these challenges by leveraging our expertise and aligning with universities across America to make a big impact closer to home.”

The Period Equity Initiative, Hoeger added, furthers Saalt’s commitment to making period care more affordable, accessible and sustainable.

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