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Kate Dyson


Kate is a content writer, social media obsessive and community creator. She's also mum to three kids, two dogs and unsurprisingly, a lover of wine.

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Urinary incontinence is the unintentional passing of urine. It's a common problem thought to affect millions of people. There are several types of urinary incontinence, including: stress incontinence – when urine leaks out at times when your bladder is under pressure; for example, when you cough or laugh.

Bladder weakness

Stress incontinence is usually the result of the weakening of or damage to the muscles used to prevent urination, such as the pelvic floor muscles and the urethral sphincter. Urge incontinence is usually the result of overactivity of the detrusor muscles, which control the bladder.

Gig economy

A 'gig economy,' is a free market system in which temporary positions are common

The gig economy and incontinence

For people working in demanding and inflexible roles incontinence and bladder weakness can be a real challenge.

What is the gig economy and why is it important to address the issue of toilet access for workers in this system?

A 'gig economy,' is a free market system in which temporary positions are common and organizations hire independent workers for short-term commitments.

The term 'gig' is a slang word for a job that lasts a specified period of time.

How did Amazon workers' recent strike shed light on the issue of toilet access in the gig economy?

It was recently revealed that Amazon workers were going on strike because they felt the conditions in which they were working were unfair. In particular they reported that toilet breaks were being timed by managers.

Two Amazon workers, who are members of the GMB, said the robots in the warehouse 'are treated better than us'.

What did Amazon workers reveal about their working conditions?

In a recent BBC interview (for their BBC news site), Darren Westwood and Garfield Hilton talked about how even a trip to the toilet led to questions by managers.

'The thing with stopping work is that they want to know why,' said Mr Hilton. 'So if the time is beyond a couple of minutes they can see it on the system.'

The men said that managers tracked staff performance, and time that was not spent scanning items was accrued (so when they are not scanning items they are not deemed to be working). The implications for those living with bladder weakness and incontinence are many- they are less likely to take breaks, so more likely to suffer with leaks, they are also unable to change pads with less frequent trips to the toilet, and so would potentially be working whilst feeling uncomfortable and worried about colleagues noticing their leaks.

This is against a backdrop of Amazon chairman Jeff Bezos having a personal fortune of 120 billion (yet refusing to give UK workers an adequate pay rise). Westwood said in the BBC article:'These people (Amazon workers) had worked two years through the pandemic, that had seen Amazon's shares go through the roof. They had seen the profits just become unimaginable.'

Mr Hilton (who has diabetes) also said it was not always possible to find toilets close to his workplace, and the whole process of finding one and returning took upwards of 15 minutes.

He went on to explain that managers would then interrogate workers about where they were.

How does the lack of access to toilets in the gig economy impact workers?

Going to the toilet and taking the necessary time to do so is a basic human right. For those experiencing incontinence and bladder leaks it becomes impossible to navigate because they are under stress to pee on demand and in as short an amount of time as possible (which might result in them not fully emptying their bladder because they are in such a rush).

How are Uber drivers also affected by the lack of access to toilets?

Uber drivers have also been in the spotlight when it comes to a lack of access to toilets, as they are on the move and so a toilet may not be close by.

A recent Grazia article revealed that many were peeing in gardens near Heathrow airport. This is obviously not good for people who live near the airport and is also stressful for drivers (peeing outside in public is difficult for men and women but is especially hard for women as it can't be done quickly or discreetly without getting fully undressed). If you are living with bladder weakness and incontinence then peeing in public is even more stressful - with no opportunity to fully empty the bladder and the added stress of being seen.

How have cutbacks in public toilets in the UK affected workers in the gig economy?

There are also fewer public toilets in the UK too so drivers cannot always rely on finding a toilet they can use when they need it - there has been a drop of over 19% because of cut backs in council spending. This cut back in public toilets doesn't just impact Uber drivers and delivery van drivers either.

According to a 2019 report by the Royal Society for Public Health, imaginatively titled Taking the P***, the effect has been to create a 'urinary leash', with 1/5people stating that a lack of facilitiesmeans they restrict outings from their homes. That means that people are refraining from leaving their houses because they are worried about not being able to find a toilet.

What steps have been taken to address the issue of toilet access for workers in the gig economy, such as the example of Heathrow airport creating a car park with toilet facilities?

Heathrow have responded to the lack of toilets and created a car park for taxi drivers to wait in that includes toilet facilities.

John Holland-Kaye, the airport's chief executive was quoted as saying, 'Over the last couple of years, private hire vehicles, Uber and their like, have just expanded phenomenally and they started to cause a real issue to our local communities.'

This is a step in the right direction but still more needs to be done to provide adequate toilet facilities for workers in the gig economy who are working long hours, under stressful conditions and could also have symptoms of incontinence and bladder weakness.

What is Jude's stance on the issue of toilet access in the gig economy and how do their supplements help reduce leaks for workers?

Here at Jude we believe every worker should have the right to regular toilet breaks, and access to clean toilets. It is worrying to realise that there is still so much work to be done in providing these for workers. To read more about how our supplements help reduce leaks click here.