Home Office women driven out of mixed lavatories The Times 17.02.21

The original article is here.

Women working in the Home Office are having to visit other departments to use the lavatory because so many of the building’s facilities are unisex.

Many women said that they felt uncomfortable using mixed-sex lavatories. Long queues built up outside the remaining ladies’ toilets when most people were back in the office.

Some women regularly walk to the neighbouring offices of the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government. The Home Office is understood to have the most mixed lavatories of all the government departments.

Managers spent almost £40,000 in 2018 to convert ten of them into unisex facilities.

Arguments arose between staff after women walked in on men who had left doors open while using the cubicle. A note was left on one door, reading: “Polite notice. Could men using these toilets please use them with the door shut. Women are finding use of the toilets quite distressing.”

A government source told The Times: “The gender-neutral toilets in the Home Office were installed without consultation. Some Home Office female staff now go to different departments in order to use the loo.”

The government is considering proposals to increase the number of ladies’ lavatories because there is evidence that increasing numbers of publicly accessible facilities are being converted for male and female use.

Research commissioned by ministers has found that many women were less likely to feel comfortable using mixed facilities.

The managers of public buildings such as the Old Vic theatre in London have been criticised after ladies’ lavatories were abolished in 2019.

Robert Jenrick, the communities secretary, is holding a consultation on providing more women’s lavatories. He said that he was responding to increasing concerns among women and older people about the rise of mixed-sex facilities.

“I have launched a review to establish the best way to deliver this as a priority and make sure that women can expect a sense of dignity, security and safety when using facilities,” Jenrick said in October. “We want to maintain safeguards that protect women and the proper provision of separate toilets.”

A Home Office spokesman said that there were ladies’ lavatories on every floor of the building. The official said that staff should not need to go to other departments if they felt uncomfortable using mixed facilities.

 

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