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 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.
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.
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 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.
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.
Work put me at an offsite warehouse, it had zero facilities no water, no toilet, no place to wash or canteen, portable facilities was Not provided, they are saying that there was a cafe near by, which I don't think is in any way right of them to say... however is this actually illegal ?
Elmo - 22-Feb-24 @ 5:33 PM
Hey just wondered does anybody know if your boss is allowed to deduct money from your salary for the use of paper towels, toilet roll & hand soap ?
I know UK employers have a legal obligation to provide all these things - but can they charge you for them ?
johnny - 11-Jul-23 @ 10:50 AM
The place I work in has a new energy saving scheme that consists of light switching off in toilets after 5 seconds, no matter what you’re doing. So when you get into the stall you barely got time to unzip before you’re in complete darkness. Is this legal?
Monika - 27-Apr-23 @ 7:33 AM
My husband works for a charity as membership officer. He is regularly sent to places with no toilet facilities to set up his stall. This includes woods where there are no public toilets. He is expected to work there for a full day.
Should his employer be expected to provide something like a camping toilet so that he has facilities available?
Jenny - 27-Mar-23 @ 12:35 PM
The water has been switched off in my workplace due to burst pipe leaking onto electrics. We have no access to toilets but bottled water and hand wipes have been provided. The retail store has remained open and will open again today. Is this legal? Tradesmen apparently keep rejecting the job to come out and fix it.
Sarliz - 22-Dec-22 @ 7:51 AM
I work in a supermarket/ freezer centre. The toilets have not been flushable for almost a week and the water has been turned off due to a burst pipe. Is this even legal?
Rosie - 19-Dec-22 @ 12:52 PM
My boss has told us to load at a new unit, which can take an hour sometimes longer. There are no toilets or hot water. Is this allowed ?????
David - 10-Nov-22 @ 5:41 AM
I work in a brewery packing bottled beer or canned beer. It’s is physically demanding work.I am never near the part of the brewery where the product is being produced or is not already canned or bottled. Our new manager has just banned water bottles on the packing lines, means four hours with out water / drinks until lunch break then another four hours without as we cannot leave our stations for a drink. Can he do this?
MissT - 29-Sep-21 @ 11:56 AM
I work in a marina office where nearest toilet is the one for berthholders about 100m from the office. No running water or bottled water in the office. Is this allowed?
Ann - 6-Jul-21 @ 5:21 PM
I support an individual in their own home( my shifts are either 12 hrs or 24) the bathroom door no longer shuts or locks is this allowed??
Ann - 9-Jun-21 @ 5:55 AM
Builder refuses to supply portable toilet on building site
Robbo - 4-May-21 @ 11:45 AM
Should my work place be closed if the toilets are blocked and flooding?
Del - 8-Jan-21 @ 3:40 PM
Is itlegal to lock toilet s on siteas ask for keyentry only
Royboy - 15-Dec-20 @ 6:37 AM
I work in a asda and we don,t have toilets in are in-storeshop shop we have to use the customer toliets and have no running water as well i sure we should not use the customer toiletsat moment with covid 19
boo - 1-Dec-20 @ 11:29 AM
Working alone I deliver to a major high street store through the night and have access to the delivery area in the basement only. I have a keycard to enter the store and the alarm code to deactivate the alarm. I have NO access to any toilets at all as they are in a different area of the store. There is no other staff at the store to escort me to the toilet if needed. What are my rights? May I refuse to deliver to this certain store? All the other stores we deliver to working alone through the night have access to toilet facilities. Hope someone can help. Thanks
headboard - 13-Oct-20 @ 11:21 AM
I work in a portable cabin, recycling clothes. It has no toilet or running water or provisions for drinking water. Our nearest public toilet is 10 minute walk away in a supermarket. Where do I stand wirh this, especially during covid 19.
Cb - 24-Sep-20 @ 6:04 PM
I work in a special needs school, its a secondary special needs block im going into, there are boys and a girls toilet for pupils ages from 16 to 19 there is no separate staff toilets weve been told to use the changing room which is for changing the pupils who cant use the toilet and need a changing bed or help to use toilet. Should we not have a separate staff toilet.
sonnie - 31-Aug-20 @ 10:20 AM
Can employers lock toilet doors walk you 2 the toilet and then wait outside until you are finished and lock the toilet back up?
Jay - 19-Aug-20 @ 8:31 PM
I work in a small barber shop with no running water or toilet. What are the legal requirements when I go back after lockdown??? How do I stand on this matter???
mumz - 20-Jun-20 @ 6:27 PM
I am a female cleaner, i clean the toilets at my work and when I do, i put multiple signs up saying "cleaning in progress" and "temporarily closed". The staff ignore these signs, even moving them out of the way to access the bathroom (there is 3 other bathrooms in the building) and proceed to use the toilets. My biggest problem is the men coming in when i'm working, one man came into the bathroom with his jeans already undone and exposed himself to me accidentally! Normally I would leave when someone uses the toilets but because I only have a limited time to get them clean I can't. I asked the man to use another bathroom as this one was closed for cleaning and I was ignored, and he continued to use the urinal. I just want to know if there is any rules or laws that would support me when complaining to my boss yet again about staff ignoring signs?
Loo - 12-Jun-20 @ 2:16 PM
I work in a hairdressing salon that has no hot running water in the staff room or the toilet will it have to be rectified before it re opens after lockdown
Pam - 22-May-20 @ 1:08 PM
I work in a small shop with no toilet or running water and even though it is against the law we have never been provided with drinking water. I will be expected to return after lockdown with no handwashing facilities and possibly no public toilets open.
Worried - 14-May-20 @ 5:46 PM
I work outside so have no access to office welfare facilities. They want to send us back out to work now with the new government announcement. However, the places we use are shut or inaccessible due to corona virus. Is it legal to be sending us out even if for half a day when we have no access to welfare facilities?
Glossy1 - 12-May-20 @ 2:18 PM
We work in a shop that we have to close to walk down the rd to the public toilets.our shop also has no running water.
Mamma - 25-Mar-20 @ 8:17 AM
How close do toilets have to be at place of work. What is the law
Big L - 14-Feb-20 @ 3:08 AM
I rents a shop it has no water or toilet
Sam - 13-Jan-20 @ 5:49 PM
The toilet facilities at our work place are locked and we can't use nearby toilets
Tony - 10-Jan-20 @ 9:23 AM
I'm a bus driver and I have been fined by a bus station for leaving a bus parked up with passengers on while I went to the toilet. Is this legal?
Richr - 11-Dec-19 @ 8:52 PM
I work on the 3rd floor of a building there is only toilet access on the ground floor, I’m 18 weeks pregnant so every time I need the toilet I have to walk down 3 flights (60 stairs) and then back up to carry on my work, is this acceptable?
H - 19-Nov-19 @ 4:04 PM
I work in a gatehouse. We have not had use of a toilet in there for the past 19 weeks and have been told that we should use the nearest toilet to us, which is over 100 meters away and up two flights of stairs. Also, the sink in the gatehouse is barely big enough to fit average sized hands in. Would having to walk so far to the toilet and having such a small sink be deemed ok?