Like many areas of business, engineering and construction industries are male-dominated and tend to overlook the necessity for welfare facilities for those who menstruate. However, this certainly doesn’t mean that because a workforce prevails with a particular mindset or preference that inclusivity shouldn't be subsidised.
Inclusivity and empowerment are without doubt fundamental subject matters and are being tackled by many individuals within the UK context, especially within HR departments.
One crucial topic, however, which is often disregarded in terms of inclusivity by various businesses and sectors is the issue of menstruation.
This is visible with the insufficient amount of sanitary disposal bins made available for people who menstruate in many industries.
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There are laws present in the UK for sanitary waste disposal facilities that state that any business that has a female or male transgender employee(s) or visitor has a legal obligation to provide sanitary waste disposal facilities.
The three main bodies of legislation that this falls under are:
Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992
Water Industries Act 1991
Environmental Protection Act 1990
On the other hand, these laws are not in effect for construction/ site workers and oddly enough fall under different legislation. Schedule two of Construction Design and Management (CDM) Regulations 2015 does not include the provision of sanitary waste disposal facilities.
The lack of sanitary bins has led many people across the UK to voice their concerns and call for national change within the construction industry and ultimately change the perception of menstrual cycles.
What can businesses do?
Women form up 16.5% of all engineers in the UK and this is the lowest amount present in Europe.
In addition, the construction sector needs 35,000 new workers a year to overcome the skills shortage. In this industry, women are expected to share toilets, with men on one in five construction sites according to the Considerate Constructors Scheme.
Offshore Energies UK Chief Executive, Deirdre Michie, stated: “Female representation in the industry is not good enough.”
However, to surpass these issues and diminish the stigmas associated with people that menstruate a petition has been created.
The aim of the petition titled: “Make sanitary waste disposal facilities a requirement in CDM Regulations” is to tackle the lack of sanitary disposal waste facilities within the engineering and construction industries.
Also, Charity Rosa, an Assistant Engineering Geologist, created the petition to help make engineering and construction careers more inclusive. Lucy Lettice, Co-Founder of & SISTERS, expresses that the petition highlights the gap in workplaces which have been traditionally built for men.
Lettice added: “The current CDM regulations do not specifically include sanitary waste disposal facilities, only suitable and sufficient sanitary conveniences. This has become a loophole where women are being disproportionately negatively impacted.”
Therefore, it’s essential for businesses that are involved in industries, such as construction, engineering and more to provide welfare facilities.
Stella Brookes, a Civil Engineer at Binnies, states: “With the nature of site welfare facilities, there are signs stating that only toilet paper can be put down the toilet. This leaves women having to either travel off-site to find appropriate facilities, or carry sanitary waste on them, until a suitable place to dispose of them is found.”
As seen with the statement by Brookes, welfare facilities such as sanitary disposal bins are not practicality for people but are a must for people who menstruate and a simple right to have.
As a result, it should be mandatory for all businesses and industries regardless of their employees' gender to secure and put forth welfare facilities for all. Implementing such means for everyone will enhance wellbeing, inclusivity, and overall, consider everyone's rights.