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This publication is available at https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/toilet-provision-for-men-and-women-call-for-evidence/toilet-provision-for-men-and-women-call-for-evidence
Detail of outcome
Following the call for evidence on toilet provision for men and women an announcement has been made.
See written ministerial statement laid in parliament on 4 July 2022 for more information.
Technical review on increasing accessibility and provision of toilets for men and women
Toilets, both in municipal and private sector locations, are an important facility for members of the public, in particular, women, those with children, older people and disabled people.
The government has taken a number of steps recently to increase provision of ‘Changing Places’ toilets for disabled people who cannot use standard accessible toilets. The government has also encouraged councils to open up public toilets following the COVID lockdown; and the government is increasing business rate relief for public toilets.
The government’s position is also of the view that there needs to be proper provision of gender-specific toilets for both men and women, with a clear steer in building standards guidance.
In recent years, there has been a trend towards the removal of well-established male-only/female-only spaces when premises are built or refurbished, and they have often been replaced with gender-neutral toilets. This places women at a significant disadvantage. While men can then use both cubicles and urinals, women can only use the former, and women also need safe spaces given their particular health and sanitary needs (for example, women who are menstruating, pregnant or at menopause, may need to use the toilet more often).
Women are also likely to feel less comfortable using mixed sex facilities, and require more space.
It is also desirable to avoid queues for toilets, and male toilets are typically able to allow for a quicker transition of customers. In addition to this, signage should be clear, and should not seek to avoid the use of gender-specific language unnecessarily as this causes public confusion.
We are therefore launching a technical review to address these points and will also to consider the ratio of female toilet spaces needed, versus the number for men, given the need for women to use cubicles. We want to ensure that everyone is fairly served, and this review will ensure different voices are heard.
There are a few alternative routes and mechanisms for conducting this review, and MHCLG will be considering the best route forward as a priority, working closely with relevant stakeholders to ensure that their views and technical knowledge of building regulations is considered.
This is entirely separate from the issue of gender-neutral Changing Places toilets for disabled people, which has been subject to a recent government consultation, where gender neutral provision is encouraged to facilitate carers/partners of a different sex providing assistance.
The government wants to ensure dignity and respect for all. The Equality Act provides that sex, age, disability and gender reassignment are protected characteristics. This does not mean that gender-specific toilets should be replaced with gender-neutral toilets. But there should be balanced consideration of how the needs of all those with protected characteristics should be considered, based on the mix of the population and customer demand.
As part of this review, the merits of any best practice guidance on the provision of a gender-neutral toilet, as part of a wider balanced mix of gender-specific male and female toilets – where space allows – will be considered, alongside the interaction with the necessary provision of access to disabled toilets.
These considerations also include provision for older people, and for parents with very young children who need changing facilities.