Gender-Neutral Workplace Restrooms

Canadian Equality Consulting is a remote workplace, with employees located in provinces across Canada. We this in mind, we do not have a physical workplace to implement gender-neutral restrooms, but this does not mean we fail to acknowledge its importance. Through our GBA Plus assessments, we discuss the relevance of gender-neutral restrooms to be able to truly foster inclusive workplaces. CEC Subscription Services includes policy and document reviews, where clients send us a number of their policies which we will review from the lenses of gender and sexual diversity, accessibility, anti-racism and intersectionality. For the duration of this blog, we will be discussing the need for gender-neutral restrooms, and some best practices for employers to consider.

What is a Gender-Neutral Restroom?

A gender-neutral restroom is available to individuals with all gender identities and gender expressions. Organizations foster these spaces to increase a sense of safety for many individuals who do not feel comfortable or welcome to use single-gender restrooms. Under this implementation, it is important to acknowledge that everyone, including but not limited to transgender and non-binary people, have the right to feel safe in their workplaces, which includes restrooms.

A universal restroom, however, is encompassing for all equity-deserving groups. This type of restroom invites people in all of their diversity, accommodating for all genders, abilities, and caregivers. From an accessibility lens, universal restrooms include automatic doors and space to navigate with a mobility device, as well as grab bars and patient lifts in the stalls. Universal restrooms may also include adult change tables, and options for both hand dryers and paper towels. The difference between a gender-neutral restroom and a universal restroom is that one focuses on the inclusion of all genders, whereas the other focuses on the inclusion of all equity-deserving groups.

Why is it Important to Have Gender-Neutral Restrooms?

It is important for employers to understand that access to restrooms is a basic physical need for all individuals. Without the implementation of gender-neutral restrooms, gender and sexually diverse employees are forced to choose between the single-gender restrooms. In these instances, there is the risk that employees will experience harassment, discrimination, intimidation, and refusal of access due to their gender identities. In addition to a lack of safety in this process, it can also lead to other negative consequences including health issues, if employees feel that they are not able to use any of the restrooms in their workplaces.

Taking a gender-inclusive approach allows individuals to make choices based on their needs, instead of forcing them to comply with the gender binary. Beyond cultivating safe spaces, the implementation of gender-neutral restrooms creates a culture that ensures that the needs of individuals of all genders are acknowledged and affirmed.

What are my Responsibilities as an Employer?

In the workplace, the responsibility falls on the employer to put processes and systems in place that ensures all individuals receive the basic human rights they are entitled to, including access to a restroom in which they feel safe to use. The following are some best practices for employers to consider when designating gender-neutral restrooms.

1. Conduct a Space Assessment

A space assessment is used to identify the ideal types and amounts of space required to build or appoint gender-neutral restrooms. In this assessment, employers must ensure that the spaces are accessible to all and are in places that are convenient for individuals to locate. For example, if it is only possible to offer one gender-neutral restroom in the entire building, it should be placed in the main lobby area. This assessment is required to understand the extent of what is feasible for this implementation, as it can highlight whether employers can afford to build a separate restroom, or if they need to appoint some of these existing single-gender restrooms as gender-neutral. While there should be at least one gender-neutral restroom in every workplace, if you have over 200 employees, there should be an additional gender-neutral restroom for every 100 people.

2. Increase Privacy

Gender-neutral restrooms should contain single stalls, and a common area with many sinks. The reason for single stalls is to increase everyone’s privacy required when using the restrooms. Additionally, this space may also be used as changerooms for individuals, which contributes to the need to have ceiling to floor seclusion.

3. Don’t Police these Restrooms

Gender-policing involves making comments or objections to which restrooms individuals are allowed to use. It is important to note that gender-neutral restrooms are a matter of personal choice, and employees should not be required to face the added discrimination and social pressures that come with being assigned to a specific restroom. Employees should be able to choose whichever facilities they are most comfortable with, and that corresponds to their gender identity. It is never appropriate to determine which restroom each individual should use.

4. Use Appropriate Signage

Gender-neutral signage must clearly define the space’s purpose and should not include any gendered symbols or language. Appropriate signage for gender-neutral restrooms typically includes a toilet and wheelchair symbol; employers should avoid adding symbols of people, as this is not an inclusive practice for gender-neutral restrooms. We also recommend using gender-neutral colours for signage. This implies avoiding the use of pinks or blues, and instead trying to focus on yellows, greens, oranges, etc.

5. Raise Awareness

It is crucial to ensure that every employees is aware of this implementation and is familiar with why it may matter to their colleagues and clients in the workplace. As part of this implementation, employers should attempt to provide communications around why gender-neutral restrooms are important to organizational alignment with equitable and inclusive practices. As well, employers should provide resources to help employees understand why a single-gender restroom may be harmful, and encourage individuals to refrain from placing judgment on which restrooms are used.

If your organization requires support in implementing gender-neutral restrooms, or creating policies to accompany gender-neutral restrooms, please reach out to us at [email protected]; We will provide you with information about all our available CEC Subscription Services. If you are interested in learning more about gender-based analysis, ensure to sign up to attend our GBA Plus Conference in May of 2023.


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