10 May, 2024

The government is set to introduce new regulations for single-sex toilet facilities in non-domestic buildings, addressing concerns related to safety, privacy, and dignity.

This new law is a response to a recent consultation, where 81% of respondents supported the intention to maintain separate single-sex toilets, and 82% supported offering universal toilets when space permits. Universal toilets are private, fully enclosed rooms with a toilet and a wash basin for individual use.

The consultation revealed concerns from women, the elderly, and people with disabilities, who felt that shared gender-neutral facilities compromised privacy and choice. The new regulations aim to ensure that everyone has access to appropriate facilities, either in separate single-sex spaces or self-contained universal toilets.

Under the new rules, non-domestic buildings like restaurants, shopping centres, offices, and public facilities will be required to offer separate single-sex toilets for men and women. Where space allows, self-contained universal toilets can also be included. In cases where there isn't sufficient space for separate single-sex facilities, universal toilets can be provided instead.

Statements from Ministers

Kemi Badenoch, Minister for Women and Equalities, emphasised the importance of this policy for protecting privacy and dignity. She stated, "These regulations will guide organisations to design unisex and single-sex toilets, ending the rise of 'gender-neutral' mixed-sex toilet spaces that deny privacy and dignity to both men and women."

Housing Minister Lee Rowley added, "It is vital that new buildings, especially in public spaces, serve the community with proper toilet provisions. This legislation will help ensure everyone has access to the right facilities."

Wider Context

This initiative follows other recent government measures aimed at safeguarding spaces for women and girls. For instance, the updated NHS constitution now prioritises patient safety and dignity, including a commitment to maintaining single-sex wards. Schools are also required to provide separate toilets for boys and girls aged eight and over.

These regulations will apply to new non-domestic buildings or those undergoing significant changes, with some exceptions. Exemptions include residential homes, en suite facilities in residential rooms, and early years facilities.

The changes are expected to take effect in England only, under Building Regulations 2010 Part T and the Approved Document T, which defines universal toilets as private, fully enclosed rooms with a washbasin.