Department for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities
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Government to lay new law to halt the march of gender-neutral toilets in buildings

New requirements will be brought forward for single sex toilet facilities in new non-domestic buildings to alleviate safety, privacy and dignity concerns.

The new legislation follows the results of a consultation on the proposals, where responses showed 81% agreed with the intention for separate single-sex toilet facilities and 82% agreed with the intention to provide universal toilets where space allows.  A universal toilet is self-contained, and a fully enclosed toilet room with a wash hand basin for individual use.

Responses highlighted particular concerns from women, elderly and the disabled who felt unfairly disadvantaged as publicly accessible toilets are increasingly being converted into gender neutral facilities where users share cubicle and hand-washing facilities. This leads to increasing waiting in shared queues, decreased choice and less privacy and dignity. 

The new requirements will mean everyone can access appropriate facilities either through a separate single-sex space or a self-contained, universal toilet.   

Changes to building regulations will mean that new non-domestic buildings, including restaurants, shopping centres, offices and public toilets will be required to provide separate single-sex toilets for women and men. Self-contained, universal toilets may be provided in addition, where space allows, or instead of single-sex toilets where there isn’t enough space.   

In addition to single-sex toilets becoming the default for new non-domestic buildings and places undertaking major refurbishment, the policy encourages provision of self-contained universal toilets, which are a fully enclosed toilet room with a washbasin and hand-drying facilities for individual use.   

Minister for Women and Equalities Kemi Badenoch yesterday said:

These regulations will guide organisations to design unisex and single-sex toilets, ending the rise of so-called “gender-neutral” mixed sex toilet spaces, which deny privacy and dignity to both men and women.

Today’s announcement will also create better provision for women so that our particular biological, health and sanitary needs are met.

This is following our work last week limiting the use of mixed-sex wards in the NHS and demonstrates how this government is committed to ensuring single-sex spaces are protected for all.

Housing Minister Lee Rowley yesterday said:

We know all members of society value safety, privacy and dignity, and this new legislation will help ensure the right facilities are in place for everyone. 

It is vital that new buildings, particularly in public spaces, are serving the community with right toilet provision.

The government is clear that single-sex spaces are essential for ensuring privacy and dignity for the elderly, women, and girls. 

The move comes following a set of announcements of firm action to protect spaces for women and girls, such as the government’s introduction of a new NHS constitution which put patient safety and dignity at the heart of care, including reinforcing the NHS’s commitment to providing single-sex wards. It also follows the Minister for Women and Equalities’ call for examples of organisations issuing incorrect guidance on single-sex spaces. 

In addition, the Department for Education re-enforced that schools are required to comply with minimum standards, including that separate toilets for boys and girls aged 8 years and over are to be provided. While colleges are not subject to the same legal requirements, they should take the same approach given the same safeguarding considerations apply.

Changes to building regulations will ensure that:   

  • separate single-sex toilets facilities are provided for men and women
  • self-contained, universal toilets may be provided in addition to single-sex toilets, where space allows
  • self-contained universal toilets may be provided instead of single-sex toilets only where lack of space reasonably precludes provision of single-sex toilet accommodation

Further information

The new requirement will apply to new non-domestic buildings, or buildings which undergo a material change of use, with some exceptions.   

These exemptions are:   

  • residential homes
  • en suite facilities in individual rooms for residential purposes 
  • residential rooms in care homes
  • premises used wholly or mainly for early years provision 
  • schools
  • cellular accommodation in custodial facilities

While separate toilet facilities for boys and girls aged 8 years or over must already be provided in schools, except where the toilet facility is provided in a room that can be secured from the inside and that is intended for use by one pupil at a time.  

The changes will affect England only.  

In the Building Regulations 2010 Part T and Approved Document T, the phrase universal toilets is used. This refers to self-contained, private toilets, which are a fully enclosed toilet room with a wash hand basin for individual use.


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