3 May 2023

Are your employee facilities adequate?

There’s nothing like toilets to get employees excited. Either there are not enough toilets, or the building is old and they’re a bit outdated. The recent Miller vs Earl Shilton Town Council is a helpful case for small companies who might find themselves not having many facilities for employees due to space limitations and the style of workspace available. What we don’t know is whether Ms. Miller raised this with her employer prior to her Tribunal claim and felt she didn’t receive an adequate response.

Here’s a summary of the case...

  • Ms. Miller, an office clerk for Earl Shilton Town Council, claimed direct sex discrimination due to inadequate toilet facilities for female employees. The council operated from a building owned by the Methodist Church, with women’s toilets used by the playgroup. Female employees had to attract the playgroup staff’s attention and wait to use the toilets.

  • From May 2017, the council offered female employees the use of the cubicle in the men’s toilets, which had no sanitary bin and could only be accessed by passing the urinals. A bolt was fitted to the external door to the men’s toilets in June 2018, with a sanitary bin also provided. The tribunal held the arrangements were in nature that sex was the reason for the less favourable treatment of women. While a straightforward solution was eventually put in place, no reason was given for why this was not done sooner.
  • The Employment Appeals Tribunal (EAT) dismissed the council’s appeal, as inadequate toilet facilities were provided for women. The lack of a sanitary bin and the risk of encountering a man using the urinals resulted in less favourable treatment than that accorded to men. It did not matter that other female employees had not objected to the arrangements.
  • This case clearly highlights the need for employers to investigate alternative options when facilities are lacking, including practical solutions such as locks on communal areas and appropriate bins that are emptied regularly. A situation can still result in sex discrimination if all employees are disadvantaged in some way, but where there is a difference in treatment inherently due to sex.

Get in touch

If you’re unsure about whether your business facilities are fit for purpose or are looking for some general HR advice, then we would be happy to help.