Give us a (loo) break!

Toilet breaks are not a luxury, but a basic need. It is a legal requirement of employers to provide toilet breaks.

Problems can occur however, when employers believe that toilet breaks should happen in a workers’ own time. Work and rosters can be planned which don’t account for toilet breaks. In some workplaces, a culture exists where use of the toilet is frowned upon!

For some workers having a toilet break during a work shift means having to ask to use the toilet and having to wait for permission from a supervisor (who may not be around at the time), then subsequently having to wait for a replacement team member. 

This is humiliating. It takes away a worker's dignity and is against the spirit of the health and safety legislation relating to access to toilet and washing facilities.


It's a health issue

Not being able to go to the toilet when you need to can cause a range of health problems, including digestive and urinary tract problems and kidney infections which can develop into more serious health conditions.

Further, people on certain medications may need to visit the toilet on a more frequent basis. Likewise, women or are menstruating or in menopause, or men with prostate problems may need to urinate more frequently.

Working in the cold (for example in food cold stores) may also increase a person’s need to use the toilet.


Employer health, safety and welfare obligations

Employers must ensure the health, safety and welfare at work of all their employees, and maintain the workplace so that it is safe and without risks to health.

Employers must also provide adequate facilities and arrangements for welfare including but not limited to:

  • suitable and sufficient sanitary conveniences and washing facilities at readily accessible places
  • hot and cold or warm water in washing facilities, soap and clean towels or other methods of cleaning or drying
  • separate facilities for men and women (unless each facility is in a separate room with a lockable door and is for use by only one person at a time).

Whether you’re on the check-out or stocking shelves, if you need a toilet break when you’re at work it’s important to tell your manager or supervisor that you are leaving the work area before you go. 

If you are working alone, there should be provisions in place that allow you to go to the bathroom. For example, you should be able to close the shop and place a sign up that says ‘back in 5 minutes’. 


Welfare provisions and the SDA

A worker's right to use the toilet is a human right! The SDA will continue to use the existing law to ensure that everyone has a right to proper access to toilet and welfare facilities.

It’s not okay for your employer to deny giving you a toilet break when you need one.

If this is an issue in your workplace, please call the SDA Helpline on 1300 SDA HELP (1300 732 4357). 

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