The BABIES Act: Why isn’t there a UK Equivalent?

by Paul Kelly in Washrooms & Hygiene | posted:

Legislation comes in a wide number of forms, from health and safety, environment, to bizarre longstanding laws such as it being illegal to be drunk in public. Different countries have different laws of course, the most commonly highlighted disparity is the fact that it is legal to carry a handgun in the USA but not in most western countries.

Another law that the USA has but no equivalent in the UK is the BABIES Act. BABIES, or Bathrooms Accessible In Every Situation, and was signed in to law in October 2016. The law states that there has to be a baby changer in every publicly accessible building. As well as that, the BABIES Act also stipulates that there has to be baby changing facilities in both the men’s and women’s restrooms, a cause fought for publicly in the US.

Room for Change

For the BABIES Act, it marks a step forward in the attitudes towards parenting, and helps to break the outdated idea that parenting is something only women do.

In many countries, the move for equality for all has been long and arduous. Yet, there’s still a long to go. The UK has no piece of legislation in regards to baby changing. The simple question is, why?

As of writing, there is no legislation relating to baby changers and their requirement in UK buildings, public or private. Whether to have baby changing facilities or not is left up to the individual businesses themselves.

Common sense has to be applied here. There’s little point having baby changing facilities in a nightclub for example. However, a pub should have them since they are often open during the daytime.

As for public accessible buildings, such as libraries, there should be baby changing facilities available as they need to accommodate everyone.

#BeTheChange

For the BABIES Act to become law, it took public pressure, including a petition from actor Ashton Kutcher, for it to gain traction. From Kutcher’s initial Facebook post and petition, it took 18 months for the BABIES Act to be signed into US law.

How long would it take for a similar law to pass in the UK? That would depend on a number of factors. Firstly, there would most likely need to be a public campaign for it, which would need to gain traction. The easiest way for that to happen is to get high profile people involved.

Silence is Deafening

Despite the pubic campaign by one of the US’s biggest stars, nothing has happened in the UK and the question is; why?

The reality behind why there isn’t an equivalent to the BABIES Act is down to culture. Simply put, the Americans are known for many things, subtlety is not one of them. If a campaign takes off, like the one pushed by Ashton Kutcher, then it is unlikely to go quiet until something changes.

British people, on the other hand, are not known for the subtle-as-a-sledgehammer approach. People will push campaigns but often won’t constantly impose it on people and tend to be more respectful of others’ time. That’s not to say that campaigns don’t succeed, they do, it is just done in a more reserved manner.

Sign of the Times

To accommodate the needs of everyone, the disabled washroom needs to be available for anyone who needs it. There also needs to be adequate baby changing facilities. The ideal solution is to have separate baby changing facilities.

The issue with having separate baby changing facilities is that there are many businesses or public spaces that simply do not have the room required for independent baby changing facilities.

Which is why the baby changing facilities are in the disabled washrooms, it’s a compromise that works for the majority. A better solution would be to have baby changers in both the men’s and women’s washrooms. The advantage of this is having double the baby changers as well as freeing up the disabled toilet for those who need it.

 

 

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