The union, which represents workers in Britain and Ireland with members across all sectors of the economy, believes that tens of thousands of workers in the UK either are not provided with decent toilets or have undue, unnecessary or officious restrictions placed on them when they attempt to use the facilities provided.
Workers denied toilet dignity
Unite is highlighting the problems experienced by workers today (19 November) as it is World Toilet Day. It believes that certain sectors are worse than others: including banking, bus driving, construction, finance, lorry driving, warehousing and agriculture.
Unite’s worse-case examples such as bank workers being required to urinate in a bucket, no female toilets being provided on construction sites and bus drivers not being allowed a break for over five hours at a time.
Unite also finds that women, in particular, are denied toilet dignity, especially when they are on their period. In response to this, Unite launched a period dignity campaign in September and the campaign is now being extended to sectors such as construction and passenger transport where there are additional challenges.
Damaging to health
Having to continually hold on to use a toilet has wide-ranging health implications which include: urinary tract infections, damage to the bladder and the bowel and can cause toxins to build up in the body.
Although much of the emphasis on this day is about providing clean toilets in the developing world, Unite believes that a spotlight needs to be shone on the problems experienced by many UK workers on a daily basis.
Employers have a clear duty to provide decent toilets and washing facilities as part of the Welfare (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992, with separate regulations applying to the construction industry. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) administers these regulations and while it has the power to take legal action this rarely occurs.
Unite assistant general secretary Gail Cartmail said: “It is simply disgraceful that in 2018 tens of thousands of UK workers are denied toilet dignity at work.
“The examples that Unite has revealed are simply staggering and it is clearly deeply humiliating for the workers who are being denied toilet dignity.
“Employers have got absolutely no excuse for ensuring toilet dignity and if they fail to do so they should be prosecuted by the HSE. Unite will not be passive on this issue if workers are denied toilet dignity we will name and shame the guilty parties.”
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