Wondering how many toilets you need in an office is something which might be really easy for prospective office owners or tenants to overlook. But, for something so simple, the consequence of making a mistake can be very, very costly. Here's what the legal requirements are for toilets in the workplace in the UK and why you need to get it right.
What Are The Legal Requirements For Toilets In The Workplace, In The UK?
We've got all the key info for you here. But if you want to read the full legislation, you can visit the HSE website here and check out the rules from the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992. Regulation 20, Sanitary conveniences is what you need to check.
You need to offer a certain number of lockable bathrooms, featuring a toilet and washbasin, per number of employees (see Table A below) or separate male or female only bathrooms which have a number of toilets, washbasins and urinals in (see Table A for female numbers and Table B for male numbers).
Here's the summary of what's required to make sure your office or workspace is providing the legal requirement for toilets, in the UK.
The number of toilets (and washbasins) that a workplace has to provide depends on the maximum number of people likely to be present at work at any one time. Bear in mind that this is the minimum amount required.
Table A: In terms of mixed use toilets or toilets for women only (if you are providing male and female only toilets);
|Number Of People At Work||Number Of Toilets||Number Of Washbasins|
Table B: And the number of toilets for use by men only (if you are providing male and female only toilets);
|Number Of Men At Work||Number Of Toilets||Number Of Urinals|
How To Work Out Whether You Need Separate Toilets For Men And Women
If your toilets and washbasins are in their own separate rooms which are lockable from the inside, you can follow the numbers in Table A. But each toilet and associated washbasin will have to be in its own lockable room (like you'd get at home, for example, but without the bath or shower, obviously!).
Alternatively, if you are providing separate, unlockable rooms with services exclusively for men and women respectively (like you'd get in a restaurant, for example), then use Table A for the women's and Table B for the men's respective rooms.
A common scenario may be that a workforce of between 6-15 people, including both sexes, is only serviced by 2 mixed use toilets and accompanying washbasins.
This is fine as long as they are in a separate room which is lockable from the inside. You don't need to offer a separate men only toilet and urinal because the rooms with toilets and washbasins are lockable from the inside.
Check the other practicalities you need to consider in the following section.
The HSE prescribes what constitutes "adequate" toilet and washing facilities that you must provide your employees.
You must provide enough toilets and washbasins so that staff do not have to queue for long periods to go to the toilet. Use the tables above to work out your minimum numbers. But remember, if you need any justification beyond meeting legal requirements, the longer your staff spend waiting for the bathroom the less productive your workforce will be.
If possible, there should be separate facilities for men and women - but failing that you should have rooms with lockable doors.
Walls and floors in the toilet and washing facilities should be tiled or made of a suitable waterproof material to keep them clean. Your facilities need to be clean.
Employers should supply toilet paper and a means for women to dispose of sanitary products hygienically.
Facilities should be well lit and ventilated with a supply of hot and cold water and enough soap or other washing agents.
Also, the washbasin should be large enough for staff to wash hands and forearms, and there should be means of drying afterwards (paper towels or hot air dryer, for example).
But if your staff complete dirty work, you should provide showering facilities too.
Finally, you must always consider the needs of staff with disabilities.
What Happens If You Don't Meet Legal Requirements?
The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 means all of the advice above must be followed as a matter of legal course. Employers who breach the piece of legislation face potential criminal prosecution in Magistrate Court or Crown Court.
Civil cases could also be brought against them by mistreated employees.
Practical Implications & Construction Costs
If you have realised that your office does not meet legal requirements which are outlined above, then you need to take remedial action as soon as possible.
Your options include installing additional rooms with lockable doors that staff can use on a mixed use basis. Or you can add more facilities to your existing male and female facilities.
Both might mean a re-work of your layout and floor plan or the relocation of some dividing walls to make extra room.
You will also need to make amendments to your plumbing and electrical services, as well as checking for any implications on access routes and other health and safety factors.
What Else Does Your Office Need To Offer?
As mentioned earlier, making sure your workspace offers the adequate amount of toilet and washing facilities is important in terms of productivity, not just legalities. And there are plenty of other things that a modern office needs in order to make sure it operates in the best possible way.
Get some inspiration, ideas and well researched knowledge in this free book.