It can be extremely frustrating when you have a worker who’s spending way too much time in the restroom. An employee abusing bathroom breaks can affect everyone. Time away from their workstation means a decrease in production and increased stress and workload on their coworkers.
In order to keep harmony, you need to understand the laws covering breaks, how to talk to an employee about bathroom breaks, and the reasons they may have for these excessive bathroom breaks. Having clear policies in place and an understanding point of view will help.
How long is too long of a bathroom break?
To determine how long is too long for a bathroom break, you need to understand the laws regarding breaks. Any employee who works more than six hours per day is entitled to a minimum 20-minute uninterrupted break. They can take their break at any time, but not during the start or end of the work day.
They can also use this break by breaking it up into two ten-minute breaks. These breaks can be taken away from their workstation. They are typically unpaid, but you can decide to pay your employees for them if you like.
If they miss their break because their job keeps them busy, you need to make sure they still get that break. This is referred to as “compensatory rest.” You can discuss with your employee when this should be taken.
Past these regulations, it’s up to you to decide whether or not you want to offer additional or extended breaks. Explain these rules about breaks in writing within the employee’s contract of employment in order to avoid confusion.
When it comes to bathroom breaks, no laws exist specifying the duration or number allowed each work day. With no laws covering bathroom breaks, you need to make sure each employee gets their 20-minute break. Beyond those 20 minutes, no law keeps you from restricting any additional time away from the workstation, but be reasonable and use caution.
If your employees are taking several long restroom breaks, you could impose a time limit. The length would depend greatly on the employee and the type of work they do. For example, do they need someone else to cover for them while they use the bathroom?
On average, a person will use the restroom six or seven times each day. You can expect your average employee to use the restroom two or three times during an eight-hour shift. Keep in mind that each employee’s bladder is unique.
External factors affect how often it’s necessary for an employee to use the restroom. This is why any restrictions you place on bathroom breaks should be used as a last resort.
Communicate any changes to all of your workers and include them in your employee handbook. Changes that affect their original contractual terms will require the employee to agree to them. They can refuse to sign a new contract if it contains restroom break restrictions.
All changes need to be company-wide. You can’t single out one employee without risking unlawful discrimination complaints.
Exceptions to the full legal rest break
Shift workers are not entitled to full legal rest breaks each work day or work week if certain conditions apply. This includes changes in shift patterns such as moving from day to night. It also includes when there isn’t enough time for a full rest break.
This applies to employers working a split shift too. An example of a split shift would be if the employee works from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. and then comes back to work from 7 p.m. until 10 p.m.
While these situations don’t require you to provide rest breaks, you should strive to give all employees full rest breaks when possible. This ensures employees’ well-being and helps avoid problems like excessive bathroom breaks.
What does OSHA say about bathroom breaks?
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration(OSHA) was created with the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970. OSHA ensures that working conditions for employees are safe and healthy. They do this by setting and enforcing standards and providing employers with education, training, and assistance in following their standards.
OSHA requires you to provide all of your employees with quick access to a clean restroom. OSHA’s standards are put in place in order to protect employees from health complications that can happen when they don’t have access to a bathroom. These are problems such as bowel issues, bladder problems, and urinary tract infections.
OSHA’s sanitation standards are simply an outline of the basic requirements employers must meet. They don’t state any specific bathroom policies. While employers need to create their own written policy when it comes to restroom breaks, these policies must comply with OSHA’s standards.
According to OSHA standards, employers must allow their employees to leave their workstations to use the bathroom as needed. Employers have to have enough restrooms available for the number of employees they have. They’re not allowed to put unreasonable restrictions on the use of these restrooms.
When creating your restroom policy, make sure it complies with any requirements, regulations, or laws that are in place for your state or municipality too. Also, make sure your bathroom break policy doesn’t go against any federal anti-discrimination laws.
Exceptions to OSHA standards
There are exceptions to OSHA’s requirements to provide employees with sanitary bathrooms. For example, their requirements won’t apply to mobile crews, as long as employees can get to a restroom within ten minutes from the job site. Farm workers should be within a quarter mile of a restroom while working.
As an employer, you need to create a system for restroom breaks when your employee’s job requires constant coverage. Assembly line workers, bus drivers, and employees at workstations need to be able to request a substitute to cover their area when they need to use the restroom.
Restrictions on bathroom breaks
According to OSHA, you can’t put unreasonable restrictions on your employees’ bathroom use, but employees shouldn’t be taking extremely long restroom breaks either. This may sound confusing, but no federal standards exist for how long or frequent restroom breaks should be because bathroom use varies greatly from one person to another.
It would be impossible to come up with a number of restroom breaks and a length of break that would suit all workers. Age, health, and other considerations would quickly make these restrictions fall under the category of discrimination.
How to talk to an employee about long bathroom breaks
You probably never thought that your duties as an employer would include discussing bathroom usage with your workers. Unfortunately, long restroom breaks are a common problem in the workplace. If you have an employee who is taking frequent or long restroom breaks that are disrupting your workflow, you need to have a serious talk with them.
If your employee’s bathroom breaks are longer than what you’d expect, consider whether or not they have a medical condition causing this behavior. Talk to them in private to discover the reason for these extensive bathroom breaks.
When having a discussion with your employees, start by mentioning that you’ve noticed they are away from their workstations frequently to use the bathroom. Point out how this is affecting the workflow and then ask them how this problem could be resolved. This gives your employee a chance to discuss with you any medical issues they are experiencing.
If they don’t immediately volunteer this information, tell them that if they have a medical condition, you’re required by law to make accommodations for them. You can ask them to bring in documentation from their healthcare provider so that together you can work out a reasonable plan that everyone will be happy with.
Menopause, pregnancy, prostate problems, and medication are just a few reasons why an employee may be going to the restroom frequently. You have a legal obligation to avoid unlawful discrimination for workers with any of these conditions. This means that if your employee tells you they are dealing with a health concern, you need to support their health requirements.
Are there any other alternatives?
You can use alternative measures rather than restrict bathroom breaks. For example, if you notice an employee who’s taking frequent and long restroom breaks always takes their phone in with them, you can restrict the use of mobile phones during working hours rather than restrict restroom breaks.
You can also address how their performance is affected by their bathroom breaks. Instead of restricting their restroom usage, put the focus on their productivity. They won’t have time to waste when they use the restroom if they have quotas to reach.
If you have an employee abusing their bathroom breaks, it’s best to handle the situation sooner than later. While that initial discussion will be awkward, it will be well worth it to get production back on track.