As an employer it could possibly be frustrating when staff members are spending frequent and significant time away from work to use the toilets. However, you are not able to stop employees using the toilet. As such, you may wish to impose restrictions on toilet break allowances during the working day.
If we consider that the average person uses the bathroom 6-7 times within a 24-hour period, in a typical 8 hour working shift that would be 2-3 visits.
However, it is important to remember that everyone’s bladder is different, outside factors can play a large role which can influence how frequently a trip to the toilet is needed.
Action which imposes toilet break restrictions must be used with caution and as a last resort.
Current Law on Toilet Breaks
There are currently no employment laws that specify a number/time allowance for toilet breaks, this does not mean you should impose a set number or time limit for toilet breaks. Instead, you can set reasonable restrictions in other ways. What is deemed reasonable may be dependent on the job.
For example, a restriction suitable for client facing industries, may require another colleague to relieve their position before having a toilet break.
It is very important that any changes made are visible and accessible within the company policy. It is important to remember that any changes made that are outside the original contract signed by the employee will require you to conduct a meeting with the employee to discuss such changes.
The employee may refuse to sign a new contact with toilet break restrictions.
Issues With Imposing Restrictions
The most concerning issue with imposing restrictions on toilet breaks would be the possible health and safety issue which may result from this.
Under the Health and Safety at Work Act (1974), employers must ensure the health, safety and welfare of their employees at work, and maintain the workplace so that it is safe without risk to health. This includes adequate facilities and arrangements for welfare at work.
A well-known legal firm has advised against imposing toilet break restrictions, as going to the toilet as and when needed to is an important part of the employer’s health and safety duties, whilst also maintaining the employee’s dignity.
Restricting Access to the toilet may negatively affect an employee’s health. It is very important to adhere to any medical conditions or circumstances which may require an employee to need frequent toilet breaks.
- During Pregnancy
- Use of medication
- Prostate Problems
Protected characteristics need to be adhered to in order to avoid action being brought against am employer for discrimination. You should look to support any employees with health requirements.
Measures To Combat Excessive Toilet Breaks
A common cause for frequent and prolonged toilet breaks is the use of electronic devices. Time away from direct supervision provides an opportunity to make personal calls and browse the internet.
A suggestion before imposing restrictions on toilet breaks would be to impose a prohibition on personal electronic devices during working hours. Doing so would hopefully deter employees from taking toilet breaks unnecessarily.
Conduct a meeting with your employee if you feel they are taking excessive toilet breaks. This gives your employees an opportunity to offer an explanation.
Can You Restrict Toilet Breaks?
Technically yes, as stated before there are no laws protecting toilet breaks. However, you must ensure that employees are allowed their statutory rest break period. There is no law preventing you from restricting any further time away from work.
Should You Restrict Toilet Breaks?
The answer to this is probably not. This is because of the possible negative impact it would have on the working environment. Employees are likely to react poorly to being told there are now toilet break restrictions.
Poor workforce morale may result in decreased productivity. As an employer you need to weigh up whether it is worth possibly jeopardising your relationship with your employees in order to restrict toilet breaks.
If employees are completing their work to a high standard regardless of toilet breaks, it may not be necessary to raise an issue with them.
There is no law specifically protecting toilet breaks for employees. There are however health and safety duties that must be met as an employer. Restricting toilet breaks possibly jeopardises employee health.
Therefore, the advice given to employers would be NOT to impose restrictions on toilet breaks.
Instead, if an employee appears to take frequent and prolonged toilet breaks, the best course of action may be to discuss with the employee in private about their toilet breaks.
A second option may be to ban the use of personal electronic devices when not on break. A common reason for prolonged and frequent toilet breaks is the use of mobile phones, banning mobile phones in work time may deter employees from frequent toilet visits.
Using either of the options above would result in a happier working environment, compared to the environment created from imposing toilet break restrictions. A happier working environment creates a more productive workforce and therefore should be prioritised.
A balance must be achieved that keeps employees happy whilst maintaining a high level of productivity, toilet break restrictions would not achieve such balance.
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As a Managing Director at Wurkplace since May 2010, Karen has extensive HR, employment law and health and Safety experience from working within the private sector.
She also boasts experience of working in the public sector including local authority, fire service, police, schools, colleges, charities, NHS.