Single-sex toilets will be compulsory in all new public buildings under new government plans, reports claim.
The new rules will affect new office buildings, schools, hospitals and entertainment venues over a certain size, The Telegraph reports, in a bid to prevent public spaces from being built solely with gender-neutral facilities.
The driving force behind the plans is equalities minister Kemi Badenoch, who is said to have seen the move approved by ministers last month.
The newspaper alleges that the MP for Saffron Walden insisted it was both legal and “important” to provide separate spaces for men and women.
Ms Badenoch’s designs, set to be announced next week, follow a review spearheaded by former housing secretary Robert Jenrick which reportedly came across concerns voiced by women about the reduced privacy and longer queues generated by gender-neutral toilets.
The Fair Play for Women campaign group told the government same-sex facilities “disadvantaged” women and that “many women and girls are unwilling to walk past the urinals to get to the cubicles in the former men’s facilities”.
Meanwhile, a government source told the newspaper it was “vital” that women feel “safe and comfortable” when using public toilets, and called for a “greater emphasis on provision that is focused on dignity, privacy, tolerance and respect for all”.
The source continued: “These changes will stop the march of ‘universal’ and forced sharing of spaces - with a focus on guaranteeing privacy for all. This is a common-sense approach that is inclusive for all.”
The rules will be adopted following a consultation in the autumn and will also apply to new or redeveloped government-owned buildings, the newspaper reports.
But sources also claimed that No 10 and other ministers were keen for the changes to apply to all buildings that operate as business premises.
It comes after a poll published in June this year found that four in 10 UK workers do not want their employer to introduce gender-neutral toilets – a number far below levels of acceptance in other countries.