Provisions of facilities for employees - toilets, staff rooms etc legal requirements?

Discussion in 'Employment & HR' started by tropicalfruit, Oct 24, 2014.

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  1. tropicalfruit

    tropicalfruit UKBF Newcomer

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    I run a small business, and have recently expanded from 4 to 5 employees, plus me and my business partner, (who are self-employed but work in the same warehouse), which totals 7 people.

    One of my employees has informed me that we now require a second toilet (we have only 1) and also provide a staff room, and a 'quiet area' at lunchtime, and I wanted to ask if anyone knew if these were legal requirements or not?

    I've checked online and it looks like you do need to have a second toilet for 5 or more employees, and I wondered if anyone knew if this was a 'recommendation' or a legal requirement. We rent the building and I don't know if our landlord would do this, and if not I'm not sure it would be practical because of the layout of the building or if we could even afford it. Because my business partner and I are technically self employed are we included in the number of employess?

    As regards a 'staff room' is this a legal requirement? I'd obviously like to make sure my staff are comfortable and there is a kitchen and also tables and chairs for them to make food/eat at. Do we have to provide a designated room? Our premises is basically a warehouse with a small office, kitchen and toilet.

    The staff member also requested that there is no production that goes on at lunch time as she doesn't like background noise whilst eating her lunch. There's no machine noise, but sometimes a jet washer is used to clean equipment, as some workers take lunch at different times so will work whilst other people are lunching. Again, I guess my question is do employees have a right to a quiet lunch?

    Any advice is very much appreciated.
     
    Posted: Oct 24, 2014 By: tropicalfruit Member since: Mar 19, 2013
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  2. SwindonSteve

    SwindonSteve UKBF Enthusiast

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    Fire the rabble rouser.
     
    Posted: Oct 24, 2014 By: SwindonSteve Member since: Dec 18, 2013
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  3. Scalloway

    Scalloway UKBF Legend

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    This document summarises the legal requirements.

    http://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/indg293.pdf

    1 to 5 employees lets you have just 1 toilet.

    I don't think there is any requirement for it to be quiet though obviously it should be within legal limits for factory noise,
     
    Posted: Oct 24, 2014 By: Scalloway Member since: Jun 6, 2010
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  4. fairdealworld

    fairdealworld UKBF Big Shot

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    Oh dear! I'm all for staff rights and treating your employees well but it sounds as if you've got someone slightly (?!) unbalanced on board.

    I don't think anyone has the right to a quiet lunch unless the noise is ear splitting! Just think if you were a really big business with separate canteen facilities the eating area still wouldn't be quiet at all, it would be filled with the noise of conversation, laughter, scraping chairs, clattering cutlery, noises from the serving area, maybe even background music and so on. It was certainly like that when I worked in a big department store as a student and when later in life as an employee I sometimes ate in the canteen of the head office of the local County Council.

    You actually still seem to be obeying the law in respect of numbers of toilets as it refers to employees and you only actually have five employees as you and your partner are not employees. There is also a general 'get-out' clause in the document to which Scalloway has linked that is:

    "you must ‘so far as is reasonably practicable’, provide adequate and appropriate welfare facilities for them while they are at work. This means you must provide such facilities unless it is clearly unreasonable in terms of time, trouble, cost and physical difficulty".

    I think this point made in the document is also important: "enough toilets and washbasins for those expected to use them _ people should not have to queue for long periods to go to the toilet" Well obviously not but do people actually end up queuing with your set-up and if so why? Are you restricting the times when people can visit the toilet? If queues do form maybe it would be simpler and cheaper to make it a normal thing for people to visit the toilet other than at tea break and lunch break time? I don't see how you get queues for the toilet even with 7 people on the premises unless they are limited in their access to the facilities to certain short periods of time?

    Clean facilities? Absolutely! No employer should dodge that issue. Adequate supplies of toilet paper, soap, towels etc. well that's more than obvious too. That doesn't mean luxurious facilities just clean facilities. My small shop has an outside toilet and sometimes customers ask if they can use it too, I always say to them, it's outside but it's clean!

    Separate facilities for men and women? Well okay if such can be provided (with a really large workforce there are advantages for an employer in providing separate facilities as more men can be provided for via urinals) but actually most of us survive day to day at home and in each other's homes and in workplaces by using shared facilities. Provision of a lock on the door? Well frankly even if you had only one employee of either sex, or even if it was just your business partner and you, that would be reasonable provision which costs very little?

    N.B. I hate to say it but unless you've employed the employee with a thing about lunch time background noise, and various other issues, for more than two years, it is worth remembering that the simplest solution to issues such as toilet provision is to reduce your number of employees and the choice would seem obvious?

    N.B.2. In contrast to my comment above you should never hesitate to provide small things which increase employee satisfaction. I'm like to use bar soap, my employees have tended to like the liquid soap hand pumped from bottles on the side of the basin, providing both is a very small cost in the great order of things. Free drinks - supply of decent quality tea bags (real tea and herbal tea), coffee sticks, sugar sticks and fresh milk - is remarkably valued by employees, I suspect this isn't just about economy but about the removal of the hassle of bringing your own or contributing to 'pool' purchases. A packet/tin of biscuits or a cake thrown into the mix from time to time doesn't hurt either...! The investment is small but employee satisfaction increases remarkably as a result.
     
    Posted: Oct 24, 2014 By: fairdealworld Member since: Sep 17, 2011
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  5. Newchodge

    Newchodge UKBF Legend

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    Bear in mind when considering the advice above that dismissing someone for trying to enforce a statutory right can result in an unfair dismissal claim even if the employee does not have 2 years' service.
     
    Posted: Oct 25, 2014 By: Newchodge Member since: Nov 8, 2012
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  6. kelvin1950

    kelvin1950 UKBF Legend

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    So is it a statutory right for an employee to have a silent lunch? I'd better tell all my customers to stop talking between 12 and 2 then. :)
     
    Posted: Oct 25, 2014 By: kelvin1950 Member since: Jul 19, 2011
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  7. Newchodge

    Newchodge UKBF Legend

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    It's probably a statutory right to speak at lunchtime :)

    However the right number of toilets is a statutory right, and dismissing someone for asking this to be enforced, even if they are wrong in their understanding of the legislation, may be a problem!
     
    Posted: Oct 25, 2014 By: Newchodge Member since: Nov 8, 2012
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  8. swankypants69

    swankypants69 UKBF Ace

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    But dismissing them for no reason would be absolutely fine? If they have been there for less than two years (ie no reason is better than a bad reason!)
     
    Posted: Oct 25, 2014 By: swankypants69 Member since: May 4, 2012
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  9. Newchodge

    Newchodge UKBF Legend

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    An employee cannot complain of unfair dismissal unless they have been continuously employed for 2 years, unless the dismissal is for one of the reasons that do not require 2 years : discrimination, asserting a statutory right, trade union membership etc.

    It doesn't matter what reason you give, a tribunal may find evidence that it was for a protected reason, based on the available evidence.

    For example, excellent appraisals, no problem of any sort, complaint that there are not enough toilets, immediate dismissal with no reason given. Might look a little suspicious!
     
    Posted: Oct 25, 2014 By: Newchodge Member since: Nov 8, 2012
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  10. tropicalfruit

    tropicalfruit UKBF Newcomer

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    Thanks all. There's never an issue with queuing for the toilet, staff can use it whenever they like, occasionally one person may have to wait until it is unoccupied but I'm not aware of there being any actual queuing. I think the employee concerned has recently become disgruntled and then come up with a whole list of complaints, some reasonable, some unreasonable.

    I'm keen to separate the statutory rights (toilet provision) and just her general complaining (quiet time at lunch). We do provide everything else, and as suggested above we provide tea, coffee, milk etc plus biscuits/cake every now and then, as well as taking everyone out for a team breakfast every month or when it's someone's birthday. I want our staff to be comfortable and am a firm believer in going above the legal requirements to make sure staff are happy and feel looked after, as it creates a happier work environment and also makes people more productive. The putting in of another toilet means that we would need to move premises which we don't want to do because of the costs, so I wanted to establish whether or not that was statutory. I am going with what FairDealWorld says above:

    "you must ‘so far as is reasonably practicable’, provide adequate and appropriate welfare facilities for them while they are at work. This means you must provide such facilities unless it is clearly unreasonable in terms of time, trouble, cost and physical difficulty".

    I think this point made in the document is also important: "enough toilets and washbasins for those expected to use them _ people should not have to queue for long periods to go to the toilet"


    And there's never been an issue of queuing, so I think we are covered. Now all that remains is to try and find out why she's gone from being perfectly reasonable to becoming very disgruntled (despite recent payrise, promotion and me and my partner sitting down with her and trying to understand what's going on).

    thanks for all the advice!
     
    Posted: Oct 27, 2014 By: tropicalfruit Member since: Mar 19, 2013
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