In the recent decision of Retail and Fast Food Workers Union Incorporated v Tantex Holdings Pty Ltd (2020), the Federal Court held that employees have a workplace right to toilet breaks while at work.
The Court was forced to decide the issue after the General Manager of a McDonald’s franchise made a Facebook post to crew members informing them the Employer (Tantex Holdings Pty Ltd – Tantex) had no obligation to let them use the bathroom outside scheduled breaks.
The Retail and Fast Food Workers Union accused Tantex of “cruel and inhumane working conditions” after it claimed they were attempting to rob employees of their right to paid bathroom and water breaks.
Justice John Logan of the Federal Court described the ruling as unprecedented in Australia. He stated he could not find any cases on the right to toilet breaks and water breaks so he looked to a decision from a court in Ohio (USA) for guidance.
Justice Logan said that it made little sense for state workplace health and safety laws to require employers to provide bathrooms and drinking facilities, but not let staff use them, within limits, when it was a reasonable time to go. In analysing the issue, Justice Logan stated:
“There is not much point in imposing a statutory duty on an employer to provide, materially, toilets or drinking water if an employee cannot access the same.”
So what’s the takeaway for employers? Under work health and safety laws, an employer has the obligation of:
The recent Court decision means employers should recognise:
While most workplaces see harmonious relationships between employees and management, there are times when both don’t see eye to eye. When this happens, it costs you: in time, productivity and individual and team morale. So it’s smart to consider calling in someone who knows HR to smooth things over and get everyone back on track. That’s where Bare Bones Consulting can help. Check out our troubleshooting page then give us a call today. Your first consultation with us is free. And we’ll even let you use our bathroom…that’s your right.
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