What Are The Rules For Toilets And Washing Facilities At Work

emily gordon brown
Emily Gordon BrownLegal Assessment Specialist @ Lawhive
Updated on 26th January 2024

Arriving at work to find that the toilets aren't working may seem like a minor inconvenience, but it's more than that—it's a legal requirement to have proper toilet and washing facilities. Neglecting this duty can greatly impact individuals with disabilities or health conditions.

rules-for-toilets-and-washing-facilities-at-work

In this article, we'll guide both employees and employers in the UK through the rules regarding toilets and washing facilities, outlining your rights as an employee and the consequences employers may face for failing to provide these amenities.

Under employment law, employees have the right to hold their employer accountable for meeting these obligations.

The law on toilet and washing facilities for staff

In the UK, workplace toilet and washing facility rules are overseen by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

Employers must provide these facilities for all employees, regardless of the duration of their employment, as long as it's reasonably feasible.

The only exceptions are when it's unreasonable due to time constraints, difficulty, or physical limitations.

These welfare facilities go beyond just toilets; they include rest areas, changing facilities, and clean spaces for eating and drinking during breaks. These requirements are outlined in the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992.

What is classed as adequate toilet and washing facilities at work?

Adequate toilet and washing facilities at work, as outlined by the HSE, include:

  • Enough toilets and washbasins for all employees ;

  • Reasonable adjustments for workers with disabilities

  • Separate facilities for men and women, unless each toilet is lockable from the inside

  • Disposal options for sanitary dressings for female workers

  • Clean facilities with tiled walls and floors for easier cleaning

  • Supply of toilet paper

  • Well-lit and ventilated facilities

  • Hot and cold running water

  • Adequate soap or washing agents

  • Large enough basin for handwashing, including forearms if needed

  • Hand-drying options like paper towels or hand dryers

  • Showers for particularly dirty work, if necessary.

Employers must maintain these facilities, ensuring cleanliness and a constant supply of toilet paper and soap.

Regular cleaning schedules should be in place to meet these standards.

It is a legal requirement for employers to provide toilets with running water, which can include portable toilets if needed, such as on work sites.

These facilities must be suitable for everyone expected to use them and should not discriminate against people with disabilities.

The number of toilets and washbasins provided should be adequate for the number of people using them, as outlined in the table below.

How many toilets should a workplace have?

This table provided by the HSE outlines how many toilets an employer should provide per employee.

Number of people at work

Number of toilets

Number of washbasins

1-5

1

1

6-25

2

2

26-50

3

3

51-75

4

4

76-100

5

5

The HSE also guides on how many toilets must be provided for mixed-use, women-only, and men-only.

Do I have to stay at work if the toilets aren't working?

If the toilets aren't working at work, you might wonder if you have to stay.

According to discussions on Reddit, this isn't an uncommon concern.

One security guard shared their experience of being unable to flush the toilet, wash their hands, or clean up after eating due to a lack of water on site. They questioned their rights in this situation, especially when their employer's response was limited.

The Health and Safety Executive guides on these cases that employers should offer access to nearby public facilities as a last resort and cannot force employees to use annual leave because of this issue, though unpaid leave might be an option.

What are the rules for toilets on temporary worksites?

For employees at temporary work sites, employers need to offer flushing toilets and running water, often provided through portable toilets.

Other options might include chemical toilets and water containers.

While it's okay for employers to direct workers to public toilets as a last resort, this shouldn't be done to save money. If possible, employers should set up temporary toilets on-site.

Get advice from a solicitor

Being unable to use the toilet at work can be distressing and uncomfortable, especially for those with disabilities or medical conditions.

At Lawhive, our employment solicitors are here to help you understand your rights as an employee and guide you on what steps to take if your employer fails to meet their responsibilities regarding toilets and washing facilities in the workplace.

Contact us today for a free case assessment to learn more.

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