date: 5 March 2010
embargo: 00.01hrs Monday 8 March 2010
Employers should not be able to penalise staff for using the toilet in work time, and should provide their employees with clean, modern lavatories, says the TUC today (Monday) as it calls for a change in the law to bring workplace loos into the 21st century.
Back in 2003 when the TUC first launched its Gotta Go campaign, research revealed that across the UK many workers had no access to toilets or had to use dirty, poorly maintained ones. Others were docked pay for needing to use the loo, and had to ask if they could be excused to spend a penny. Six years on it seems the situation has barely changed.
A new TUC report - Give Us a (Loo) Break - published today to coincide with international women's day, says that toilet breaks are not a luxury, but a basic human need, and employers who don't provide staff with toilet facilities are breaking the law. It finds examples of staff having to put their hands up to use the toilet, record the number of times they nip to the loo each day or travel a mile to pee.
The TUC report is critical of employers who still believe that employees should go to the loo in their own time. Others plan work schedules that take no account of toilet breaks or allow a work culture to develop where use of the toilet whenever a worker requires it is frowned upon.
Give Us a (Loo) Break says that some workers have no easy access to the toilet - it notes a female firefighter who had to change her tampons in the back of a fire engine while her male colleagues stood guard outside. As a result of union pressure, a number of brigades have now introduced mobile welfare vehicles which have separate women and men's toilets.
Other staff are based in workplaces where the toilets are closed at night, or have given up their own time and come in at the weekend to replenish the soap and paper towels in their poorly stocked loos.
Not being able to use the toilet when nature calls can cause real health problems warns the report. Conditions including digestive and urinary tract problems can develop into more serious health issues, and individuals on certain medications may need to go more often than usual.
Working in the cold can be another cause of more frequent loo use, and women who are menstruating, pregnant or menopausal need to take a trip to the toilet more often than they would normally. Similarly, call centre workers are encouraged to drink lots of water to limit the strain on their voices, but discouraged from taking too many toilet breaks, says the report.
TUC Deputy General Secretary Frances O'Grady said: 'Employers shouldn't be mean and penny pinching over their employees' need to use the loo. They should trust staff and let them take a few minutes away from their work if they need to go.
'Dickensian attitudes to toilet breaks have no place in the modern workplace. Employees should be free to go to the toilet in work time, and not have to raise their hands for permission as if they were back in school, or have their employers keep notes on how long or how often they go for. And when staff do get the loo, they have the right to expect clean, well-ventilated facilities.'
Recent examples uncovered by the TUC of poor employer attitudes to toilet breaks include:
Give Us a (Loo) Break says better toilet facilities for UK employees will only come about if:
NOTES TO EDITORS:
- Give Us a (Loo) Break is available at http://www.tuc.org.uk/extras/loobreaksguidance.doc
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Press release (1,300 words) issued 8 Mar 2010
This page http://www.tuc.org.uk/workplace/tuc-17670-f0.cfm
printed 22 May 2013 at 03:19 hrs by 184.108.40.206