Council closes new unisex toilets after complaints

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Archive photo of early unisex toilet

Rochdale Council unveiled a sparking new headquarters building a few weeks ago - at a cost of £50 million. Employees have started moving across to the new building - which is intended to cut costs by bringing everyone together. But far from inspiring workers with the design, it has shocked them with its introduction of unisex toilets.

So why are workers so upset, and what will happen now?

Outcry

The decision to introduce unisex toilets outraged staff. Helen Harrison, Unison's Rochdale branch secretary, said in a statement: "People do have different views on it but there are a number of people who are upset about the unisex issue."

Fortunately, this outrage is fairly simple to sort out. The toilets are individual cubicles, which open off a corridor. Each has their own washbasin so none of the facilities are communal, and each cubicle can be assigned to a specific gender. The council has now said it will analyse the gender ratio on each floor in order to assign toilets fairly.

Operational services director Mark Widdup told The Independent: "Until the building is fully occupied the toilets will remain in unisex use until a full review is completed to determine male and female staffing ratios per floor. The toilets will then be separated into male and female use based on these ratios."

On the one hand, this was a terrible decision. With so much money spent on the new building it begs the question why none was spent considering the needs and sensibilities of those who would work within it.

On the other hand, who cares?

No-one is forcing people to go to the toilet together. People will still be able to go about their business reading newspapers, making private phone calls, and checking their make-up without the risk of being interrupted by the opposite sex. This isn't Ally McBeal.

Surely there are more important issues for council employees to consider than who goes to the toilet before them. And surely there must be something better for the Operational Director to do than 'review' who needs the toilet.

And why is this something the union is involved in? Widdup told the Daily Mail that the decision to review the facilities was based on "discussions with the unions". Really? Does that constitute a good use of anyone's time?

But what do you think? Let us know in the comments.

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