If you’re concerned that employees may be taking excessive toilet breaks, unfortunately there isn’t much you can do about it. By enforcing any sort of rules or policies on toilet breaks, you could be putting yourself at risk of discrimination claims and grievances.
First, let’s establish what is meant by excessive toilet trips.
The average person uses the bathroom 6-7 times within a 24-hour period, so in a typical 8 hour working day that would be 2-3 trips whilst at work.
However, you need to bear in mind that everyone’s bladder is different, not to mention outside factors that can play a part i.e. age, health, menstruating, liquid consumption – all which may influence how many toilet trips you need in a day.
If there is a certain employee who seems to be going to the bathroom every hour or they disappear to the toilet for fifteen/twenty minutes at a time, then you do have a right to be suspicious or even just concerned.
Conduct a meeting with your employee to discuss your concerns and give them the opportunity to offer up an explanation. There could be a medical issue that is causing the regular toilet trips, or maybe they have recently found out they are pregnant, whatever the reason may be, it is important that you are aware of it before you start making accusations.
If they do admit to an underlying medical condition, it may be that you seek a medical report to obtain further information regarding the condition and reasonable adjustments that you need to consider.
If there is no justification from them as to why they need the bathroom so often, then make them aware that you’ll be keeping a closer eye on them and this will probably discourage any further lengthy trips.
Alternatively, you may have been brought some information from another worker, such as them having witnessed an employee sitting on their phone in the toilets on a few occasions, and this is something that you can address during your meeting with the said employee.
However, it is important to note that under no circumstances can you enforce restrictions on bathroom trips such as a maximum of three toilet trips a day that can last no longer than five minutes.
Workers have a right to access the bathroom whenever they need to use it and this only becomes an issue when it disrupts productivity.
There is also some uncertainty when it comes to asking for permission to use the bathroom. Though this may help employers monitor toilet breaks, it seems a little pointless as you can never refuse an employee access to the bathroom and you will probably have your work interrupted every hour with an employee asking to use the toilet.
So, what exactly can you do to ensure that employees aren’t abusing their bathroom rights?
You could start by cutting off one potential cause of the problem. In most cases, extensive toilet breaks are due to employees using their phone whilst taking a trip to the toilet which makes it last a little longer than necessary.
You can enforce a ban on employees taking their phones to the bathroom or using phones whilst on shift and see if this makes any sort of difference to excessive toilet breaks.
But, before you get to caught up in this issue, ask yourself this:
Are these toilet breaks having a negative effect on your employee’s productivity?
If they are not causing an issue, and you are happy with their performance, then maybe you shouldn’t be too concerned about it.
If you are an employer and would like some more advice on this issue then please give us a call on 0845 2626 260 and our HR consultants will be able to support you on dealing with the matter. Please note, we only offer support and advice to employers.