World Toilet Day used to highlight driver’s plight

Trade union Unite is using the UN’s World Toilet Day (19 November) to highlight UK driver’s denied access to toilets. A survey by the trade body has suggested the Covid lockdown has worsened the situation.

Unite surveyed 6,000 driver members who are predominantly employed driving buses or lorries. It was found that during their normal working day, 70% do not have adequate access to toilets and washing facilities. During the lockdown, 20% reported that they continued to have adequate access to toilet and washing facilities at all times.

Where members reported that they did not have access to adequate toilet and washing facilities, six per cent reported that this always occurred, while 39% reported this was a frequent occurrence. A further 35% recorded this was an occasional occurrence.

Commercial premises have a legal duty to provide access to toilets and washing facilities to drivers making deliveries or collections. Despite it being a legal requirement and companies risking prosecution for failing to comply, the number of employers refusing access increased dramatically during the initial lockdown and similar problems are emerging during the second lockdown in England. Unite claims this has aided the spread of Covid-19. Several members reported developing Covid-type illnesses they attribute to being unable to wash their hands as the government directed.

Others record that a lack of access to toilets has worsened longstanding conditions, such as diabetes and irritable bowel syndrome, or led to illnesses such as bladder infections. Women drivers reported that a lack of toilet access during their period was particularly humiliating and damaged their health.

Unite assistant general secretary, Diana Holland, said: “It is completely unacceptable that tens of thousands of workers are being routinely denied the basic right to have access to toilets in the 21st century.

“This is making workers ill and during the pandemic the lack of hand-washing facilities will undoubtedly have increased the spread of Covid-19.

“Employers have a clear legal duty to allow drivers to use toilets, but this is too often ignored. Companies who fail to ensure the welfare of their workers should be prosecuted for public health offences.

“It is simply not good enough that professional drivers such as bus drivers have to rely on visiting takeaways or a supermarket to go to the toilet, because companies are failing to ensure facilities are available.”

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