‘A basic human right’

World Toilet Day: Unite’s Ellie calls on bosses to ‘sign up to our women’s toilet dignity campaigns’

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The United Nations World Toilet Day has been observed annually since 2013 and is held on November 19th. The day celebrates toilets and raises awareness of the 3.6 billion people living without access to safely managed sanitation.

World Toilet Day 2023 focuses on the need to accelerate change and Unite is getting involved by highlighting the problems many women workers in the UK still have accessing appropriate toilet facilities at work through the union’s Period Dignity and menopause campaigns.

Ellie Jones is a Unite Branch Secretary and Animal Rescue Officer for the RSPCA, based in Avon and Somerset and has experience of these problems.

Ellie explained: “As a mobile worker myself, and through supporting members who frequently work in rural areas, I have seen firsthand the difficulty that can be faced finding toilets and hand washing facilities that are accessible to the public.”

“This challenge can often be heightened for female members who have an additional need for facilities during their monthly cycles. Furthermore, for those members facing menopausal symptoms this difficulty can be even more urgent.”

Ellie has been campaigning on these issues as a Unite rep and said: “This year my employer, the RSPCA, has signed up to provide access to free sanitary items at all sites and office bathrooms. This is a really positive step to ensuring positive and dignified access to facilities and is a great step towards improving female members’ health and wellbeing.”

“I would therefore call on employers, firstly, to ensure that they are providing toilet facilities wherever possible, but to also sign up to the Period Dignity and menopause campaigns and provide free access to sanitary items. For those employers with mobile workers, I would encourage employers to enter into third party agreements wherever possible to increase the availability of facilities but to also encourage reporting of any businesses who deny workers access to toilets.”

“Finally, I would call for employers to provide sufficient and flexible toilet break opportunities to allow for their staff to source and use facilities, giving allowance for health issues that increase the need for toilet access.”

Ellie added, “I see World Toilet Day as a really good opportunity to tackle the barriers faced in accessing toilet facilities when they are needed, a basic human right. The additional need our female members encounter when it comes to toilet access is where Unite’s women’s dignity campaigns link perfectly.”

“I would encourage Unite reps to get involved with Unite’s Period Dignity and menopause campaigns to advocate for their female members and make a real difference to their health and wellbeing while at work.”

By Keith Hatch