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Rules for Toilets and Washing Facilities

By: Kevin Watson MSc - Updated: 11 May 2018 | comments*Discuss
Toilets Washing Facilities Welfare

Workers have a right to “welfare facilities”. These include toilets and washbasins. Businesses with one or more staff must have these basic items.


There are circumstances when businesses may not have to offer toilets and washing facilities to staff. For example, issues such as physical difficulties, cost, trouble and time may prevent the installation of toilets.

But employers should not regard these provisos as potential excuses. They should make every reasonable effort to have toilets and washbasins on hand, even during a period of short-term work.

The Law

The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 cover the supply of toilets and washing facilities for staff. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has a code of practice based on the law that explains the full requirements.

Adequate Facilities

The law states that toilets and washing facilities must be adequate. Because the word “adequate” is open to interpretation, the HSE clarifies what it means:

  • Employers should arrange for separate facilities for men and women. If this isn’t possible, toilets and washing facilities must have locks. These ensure privacy and security.
  • The facilities must be clean and easy to maintain. Walls and floors should be waterproof.
  • Toilets and washing facilities should have both cold and hot running water. They should have soap or a similar cleaning product. And a hot air dryer or paper towels should be available.
  • Washing basins must be a reasonable size. People should be able to wash hands and forearms in them.
  • The toilets should have toilet paper. In the female toilets, there should be a disposal point for sanitary dressings.
  • The facilities must have ventilation and light.


The term “adequate facilities” also applies to showers. An employer should install a shower if people are engaged in dirty work.

Number of Facilities

The law says that workers should not have to queue for long periods to use toilets and washing facilities. To clarify this point, the HSE quotes minimum toilet numbers per employees.

For women only or for mixed use, there should be 1 toilet and washbasin for 1-5 employees. The number of toilets and washbasins then rises according to the total staff. For example, 25-50 staff should have 3 toilets and 3 washbasins between them. And 76-100 employees should have 5 toilets and 5 washbasins.

For men only, there should be 1 toilet and 1 urinal for 1-15 employees. This rises to 2 toilets and 1 urinal for 16-30 staff, and 4 toilets and 4 urinals for 91-100 staff.


Disabled workers require toilets and washing facilities that meet their needs. Large cubicles with supports and low hand basins are essential. Under the law, an employer must provide suitable facilities for disabled staff.

Temporary Sites

Some work sites are temporary. This applies particularly to the building industry.

An employer must provide running water and flushing toilets if it’s reasonable to do so. An employer should not assume workers could use nearby public toilets.

If there’s no running water or plumbing, an employer should consider using chemical toilets. In these circumstances, washing facilities can be water containers.

Drinking Water

Drinking water is a separate issue to the provision of toilets and washing facilities. An employer should give workers access to drinking water from a public source. Failing this, all workers must have access to a bottled water dispenser and cups.

There should always be enough water. Availability must take account of working temperatures and the type of work.

Employers don’t have to put up a sign for drinking water. But if workers are likely to use the water in washing facilities for drinking, an employer should mark it “not for drinking” and “drinking water” as appropriate.

Other Facilities

The law regarding the provision of toilets also covers other welfare facilities. Employers must arrange a seating area, for example, where workers can eat and drink during breaks. The area should be clean and have washing facilities to ensure hygiene. Workers should also be able to heat water and food.

Changing rooms are necessary for work that involves specialist clothing. The changing facilities should be private, have hook or pegs for hanging clothes, and have access to storage and washing. There should also be seats.

Needless to say, men and women should have separate changing facilities.

Nursing Mothers and Pregnant WomenIf possible, an employer should offer a private room for nursing mothers. Pregnant women should have access to a room in which they can rest as necessary.

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[Add a Comment]
Today for just over 2hrs we had no running water. We were told to run water from the drinking water station to flush the toilet. I was just wandering if it was illegal to work without running water due to a burst water pipe.
P - 11-May-18 @ 6:46 PM
In zara we had for a couple of days Ferry liquid for washing dishes instead of soap. I have picture that i took in different days. Moreover the toilets do not have any toilet brush and is impossible to clean after yourself when using the toilets. The toilets facilities are dirty despite of the fact they have cleaners and we don't have toilet paper or soap on a daily baisis. Usually there are about 40 ladies working a day and only 3 toilets that are not all the time available or unlooked to be used. There is dust everywhere in stockroom and we have rats walking around clothes. A flagship store without clean toilets, soap .
Mary - 23-Apr-18 @ 2:10 PM
I started work at a place that was disgustingly filthy and I'm not just talking the shop floor either. The ladies looked like they hadn't been cleaned for years, the dust had dust on it and the walls were sticky. The rim had a strange colour film on the toilet bowl. There was no sanitary bins and no hot water either, the hot tap didn't work as had been cut off from the mains! It had no heating OR ventilation,in the winter, it was like going to the old outside privvys. The liquid soap was empty for weeks and was mentioned regularly,as was the lack of toilet paper and paper towels. We were moaned at for asking for top ups! We had a bottle fed water fountain, however that was topped up from an old copper pipe that was going green around were the water came out. They gave us free coffee, tea and juice and powered creamer, no milk as there was no fridge and a hot water geezer(for drinks) that leaked. One spoon that was tarnished black! Where the tea and coffee was, the area was fithly and there was no area to eat your food, you had to sit at you work station to eat, yet the boss didn't like you to get food all over the work station! The was one sink to wash mugs, hands etc that was tarnished with chemicals, again no hot water, just one cold tap(the copper one that was green) but no soap or washing up liquid OR towels, paper or other wise. Were I sat there were no overhead lights, just a small bench light,I got regular headaches and was really dark during winter. The shop floor area was so unbelievably dusty, I dropped my jumper on the floor and it was covered in dust. I saw no brooms, dust pans, brushes or mops anywhere or any cleaners. Ventilation was poor and you regularly got a blast of chemical vapours from the machines. No where to put your wet coats and I didn't see any fire extinguishers, nor did I know where the fire escapes where during my week there.I had no idea who the first aider was or who the fire Marshall was. There was definitely no emergency lighting. There was no extraction for those that soldered regularly either. I was shocked at the so called 'good' working conditions, that after getting sick of being barked at by management and being labelled a trouble maker, when I pointed things out, I valued my health too much and walked out after a fortnight! I was lucky to find employment only that was bad too, but not as bad. They had an area for washing hands, pots etc, with soap, towels, paper towels, tea towels, washing up liquid and hot and cold water. They had a fridge for milk but were you made you drinks was filthy, as it was too far for people to walk there and back to the kitchenette area. The loo was shared but cleanish with plenty of bleach and loo rolls, hot and cold water, a vent and nappy sacks for sanitary products and a waste bin. However the work area was a joke, one side had electric wall heaters and if you were on that side you'd freeze as the opposite side would en
Daffodil - 10-Apr-18 @ 3:12 AM
Hi. I been working on a site that provides no washbasin or toilet facilities.We are told to use the local supermarket. We have to use our own vehicle no allowance for using our own diesel. As a result I now suffer chronic IBS which only came once I went on site. Raised with my line manager . He raised this further up the chain an was told if we complain about lack of toilet facilities he would lose the contract . And find a contracter who's employees won't complain. It is very humiliating for me as due to the distance I have accidents which results in me going home. Them docking my pay like it's my fault.
Webbo - 9-Apr-18 @ 6:00 PM
I work for a bus company and we hv 8 female working here.. Our toilet facilities are they suposed to be cleaned every day, also we have no sanitary bin.
Az - 26-Mar-18 @ 8:37 AM
Mike - Your Question:
Since February the factory I work in ran out of gas. They need a part to fix the boiler now and we have had no hot running water or heating.Even in this snow and cold weather we’ve been having. Is this leagal? If not what can I do about it?

Our Response:
In addition to the information in the article, you can see the link here and here. If you think your employer is acting outside Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations and you have tried solving this issue with your employer directly, you can raise a grievance individually or collectively, please see link here . You can do this through your union or directly.
WelfareAtWork - 19-Mar-18 @ 9:43 AM
Since February the factory I work in ran out of gas. They need a part to fix the boiler now and we have had no hot running water or heating . Even in this snow and cold weather we’ve been having. Is this leagal? If not what can I do about it?
Mike - 18-Mar-18 @ 11:26 AM
Last Wednesday we were sent home from work due to no running and no flushing toilets available and told to return Thursday went in Thursday morning same again the problem was still there and hadn’t been fixed we were sent home again and told not to come back in on Monday but not they’ve stated we will get a hours pay for Thursday and nothing for the Friday sure even as a self employed contractor it’s there duty of care to supply the basics and should be covering pay for all men this is on a building site with 50+ men who were all sent home
Phippard - 8-Mar-18 @ 10:15 AM
@Marsha - sounds awful. But you have to do what your employer says.
NKK - 2-Mar-18 @ 12:52 PM
Today has been an unbelievable day working in office with 60-70 staff men and women with toilet facilities not working i.e no water to flushing & employer saying use and dont flush or go out and use local shops etc. Employer stating you can't leaving.
Marsha - 1-Mar-18 @ 11:53 PM
Work on a building site mobile worker, want to know when it becomes law we need an on site toilet. Sick of going in a van or maccies toilets, work keep fobbing me off with lies. Is it true over 3 workers over 3 days you need facilities?
A. - 8-Feb-18 @ 9:57 AM
P - Your Question:
I work in a well known retail chain store where there has never been running hot water as long as the longest serving staff member has been there (been working for this store for 14 years) there has only been 1 guy come out to look at the water system/boiler and he took one look at it said he would be back with parts to try and fix it and never came back.Surely this cannot be legal?Its unhygenic and not to mention cruel especially when its the depths of winter and temperatures have been as low as -6’ for us to be washing our hands in ice cold water!?We are provided with liquid hand soap and sometimes paper towels.No wonder we are always suffering with colds&flus!Does anyone have any advice they could give me?Thanks in advance.

Our Response:
Your only recourse would be to soeak to your employer directly. If you’re a worker and you’ve tried solving a problem or concern informally by talking to your manager but you’re not satisfied, you can make a formal grievance complaint in writing, please see link here.
WelfareAtWork - 5-Feb-18 @ 12:25 PM
I work in a well known retail chain store where there has never been running hot water as long as the longest serving staff member has been there (been working for this store for 14 years) there has only been 1 guy come out to look at the water system/boiler and he took one look at it said he would be back with parts to try and fix it and never came back. Surely this cannot be legal? Its unhygenic and not to mention cruel especially when its the depths of winter and temperatures have been as low as -6’ for us to be washing our hands in ice cold water!? We are provided with liquid hand soap and sometimes paper towels. No wonder we are always suffering with colds&flus! Does anyone have any advice they could give me? Thanks in advance.
P - 3-Feb-18 @ 1:33 PM
My husband is working in a building with only one toilet for around 10 men,the toilet is very unkept and dirty, my husband has brought this to the attention of his senior on site with no avail. My husband has a stoma bag and has explained to this guy that the toilet is not suitable due to the lack of cleanliness and the infections that could be passed around. What can you advise to do
Keen - 1-Feb-18 @ 3:33 PM
Our office water was shut off hours ago no wave of flushing toilets and washing hands all the toilets have already been used and unable to flush yet they refuse to send employees home instead tell us if we need to use blather room we will have to find a restaraunts or hotel to walk to and use and come back,is this legal?
Lee - 30-Jan-18 @ 4:42 PM
I occupy a small office space with one other colleague.The men's toilets are also located within this office space. There is no extractor fan in the toilets and often the smells from the toilet escape into the office space.Is there any health and safety law that could be put into practice to avoid such an uncomfortable problem at work? Thanks
Loo - 30-Jan-18 @ 11:37 AM
My work hasn't provided us with soap or a cleaning hand product or toilet roll when we are on 12 hour night shifts
Cs - 23-Jan-18 @ 7:51 AM
I am unable to understand the rules. What is the requirement for 5 females and 40 males when one toilet is set aside for women only? Can it be argued that the 'Toilets used by men only' requirements do not apply because none of the toilets is men only? Regards
Peter - 22-Jan-18 @ 5:25 PM
Hi,I work in an office as a staff.We have one toilet behing our office building.And the Building owner is not giving me the key to use the rest room.Is this legal???Whom should I contact for this??
sumi - 17-Jan-18 @ 7:00 AM
i work in a large supermarket due to work being done on the gents toilets/cloakroom the gents have been told too use the female toilets is this legal
sa - 16-Jan-18 @ 3:58 PM
i work in a large supermarket due to work being done in the gents toilet/cloakroom the gents have been told too use the ladies toilets is this legal
sa - 16-Jan-18 @ 3:47 PM
I work in an office with 1 ladies & 1 gents toilet (small cubicles with cloakroom sinks next to each other) These are in the same space as the kitchen and only separated by both toilet doors. We have had extra female staff crammed into our office making 7 full time ladies and 2 occasional + visitors. There will only be 4 full time men + any visitors. Our employer has had their way by way of all working from 1 joint office but has broken his promises of extra toilet / kitchen facilities. He said that he will make the gents a 'Unisex' toilet to get round it. I have a stoma and need comfort, sanitary bin, mirror & locker space for all my changing wears and cannot be waiting for the correct loo with all my 'stuff' to become free. Is this a fair set up and if not, what can we do? We are all very angry and feel that we're being taken for granted.
jack1971 - 11-Jan-18 @ 3:47 PM
My work place is telling us that we will be without running water for drinking & no toilets for 3 hrs...staff of 50 peaple (men/women) is this legal?? Or do they need to send us home???
Jowiha - 10-Jan-18 @ 3:44 PM
Can I ask about main toilet door, have they can be with little glass to see who is behind?
Pit - 12-Dec-17 @ 4:34 PM
@Spud - some places such as shopping precincts/malls don't have individual toilets and the staff have to use the public loos. There's not much you can do.
Viv - 20-Nov-17 @ 3:07 PM
My workplace does not have a toilet, we have been told to use the toilets in a supermarket which is a 10 minute walk away... i don’t think this is legal? What can I do about this?
Spud - 18-Nov-17 @ 2:14 PM
School based question We have a breakfast club They have now taken over the staff kitchen Were not allowed to now use it Is this legal
KD - 17-Nov-17 @ 8:45 AM
I work in a business with 12 members of staff and there are no toilets working due to a major blockage.There has been an assessment of the problems but it is going to be a while before it is sorted.We are a retail business is it legal to open whilst we are in this situation
Nixon - 12-Nov-17 @ 10:17 PM
We have kitchens provided with microwave and sink, our employer has now declined to provide washing up liquid.... so we have hot water but nothing to actually clean mugs, plates etc - is this allowed?
markofhants - 3-Nov-17 @ 2:57 PM
I work in a large chain retail with over 27 staff mostly female. We share 1 disabled toilet which is for everyone. Door is lockable and 2 washbasins are in it. We were told because the public toilets are nxt door to our store we can use them . But it means customers will see you.as you enter toilets in your uniform. My employer said its within the law as they have provided a toilet for employers and dont have to provide separate staff toilets as the public toilets are nxt to our store. Is this right and im also registered disabled i have croyns and usually have to use the public disabled.toilet.
Lablover - 2-Nov-17 @ 1:28 PM
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