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Office Toilet Provision

How many toilets do I need in my Workplace?

As we discussed in our previous article on the Workplace and the Law, there are a number of regulations that relate to the provision of toilets in offices. In this guide we explore what the law and good practice says about the how many toilets you should have in an office.

If you are a space planner, facilities manager or generally responsible for your organisations office you need to be aware of the law as it has a direct impact on how many staff and desks you can allocate to a particular floor or building. The most relevant amongst them are:

  • The Building Regulations – Part G4 of the building regulations places a duty on you as an employer to ensure that “adequate and suitable sanitary conveniences be provided in rooms to accommodate them with adequate hand washing facilities” however it does not state the number of toilets or basins required.
  • Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 – Regulation 20, Sanitary conveniences, states:”Suitable and sufficient sanitary conveniences shall be provided at readily accessible places.” It also goes on to clarify that sanitary conveniences shall not be suitable unless –
    • the rooms containing them are adequately ventilated and lit;
    • they and the rooms containing them are kept in a clean and orderly condition; and
    • separate rooms containing conveniences are provided for men and women except where and so far as each convenience is in a separate room the door of which is capable of being secured from inside.”

But what is “adequate and suitable” or “suitable and sufficient”? Luckily there is an Approved Code of Practice for the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations which gives us detailed guidance on how many toilets, urinals and wash hand basin to provide.

Number of toilets and washbasins for mixed use (or women only):

Number of people at work*Number of toiletsNumber of washbasins
From 101 and for every further 25+1+1

* The number of people is the maximum number likely to be in the workplace at any time (not the number of desks or number of people allocated to the space).

Number of toilets and washbasins for toilets used by men only:

Number of people at work*Number of toiletsNumber of urinals
From 101 and for every further 25+1+1

* The number of people is the maximum number likely to be in the workplace at any time (not the number of desks or number of people allocated to the space).

It should be noted that the approved code of practice (the ACOP) is guidance only. Your duty under the law as an Employer or someone in control of the workplace is to ensure that the toilet provision is “adequate and suitable” however the ACOP represents the HSE’s advice on how to comply with this and it is strongly recommended that you follow this advice.

Calculating the Number of Toilets Needed

When calculating the number of toilets needed and the capacity limit it puts on your floor we usually use a diversity (male / female) ratio of 60 : 60. In other words for an office with 100 staff we would assume that there are 60 male staff members and 60 female staff members – this allows for future changes in the demographics of the office. However, should your demographics be substantially different then this should be adjusted and a suitable contingency also allowed on top.  Using this example of 100 staff on a 60 : 60 ratio we would provide:

  • for traditional separate blocks of male and female toilets – a toilet block with 4 female toilets and 4 wash basins and a toilet block with 3 male toilets and 2 urinals and 4 wash basins.
  • for male / female designated cubicle style toilets with their own wash hand basins – 4 female toilets with self contained wash basins and 4 male toilets with self contained wash basins.
  • for un-designated (unisex) toilets – 5 toilets with self contained wash basins.

The Equality Act and the Provision of Toilets

How do I ensure I am being considerate to all my colleagues in the provision of toilets in my office?

As mentioned in our guide Office Space Planning and the Law the Equality Act states that the employer must consider making ‘reasonable adjustments’ in the workplace for an employee or job applicant with any one of the protected characteristics. From the perspective of office toilet provision the important ones to consider are disability, gender reassignment and sex.

Disability – suitable provision needs to be made for people with disabilities and is usually dealt with by the provision of a Universal Access (UA)  or Accessible toilets. These are designed primarily for use by wheelchair users however the equipment and rails provided may be of help to ambulant disabled and partially sighted. The Centre for Accessible Environments has produced a very useful fact sheet on the design of accessible toilets. When calculating the number of toilets required, there is no clear guidance for the number of UA toilets needed and whether they are included in the overall totals. As some members of staff feel uncomfortable using or even feel not allowed to use UA toilets best practice recommendations are, where space allows, to provide UA toilet provision in addition to the general toilets. Additionally, these should be easily accessible i.e. where possible of a sufficient number on each floor or where floor plates are small at least on nearby floors with easy lift access.

Gender Reassignment – There is significant debate about the legal rights of people undergoing gender reassignment. The current EHRC guidance is to allow those holding a GRC (gender reassignment certificate) to use the facilities of their certified gender. Some employers go further allowing all those identifying whether permanently or temporarily with a non-birth gender to use whichever facilities they wish.   This can, however, make both them and their colleagues uncomfortable in certain situations and even lead to confrontation. There have been circumstances reported where female staff have felt uncomfortable and even threatened by trans female (male transitioning to female) members of staff and there are potential “safe space” issues.

Sex – As well as the traditional male and female designation it is only right and fair to consider the needs and wishes of our colleagues who consider themselves non-binary, gender fluid or “agender”. The provision of only male and female toilets may lead non binary colleagues feeling uncomfortable, stigmatised or harassed by often well meaning colleagues. The designation of some toilets as “unisex” or “toilets for all” or better still simply leaving all toilets un-designated will alleviate any unnecessary or accidental upset or pressure. For an excellent perspective on this I suggest reading this blog by Alex Zorach.

Unisex Toilets vs Traditional Toilets – What type of toilets are best to provide?

As can be seen from the calculations above, for an office of 100 staff the traditional approach of separate blocks of male and female toilets would necessitate the provision of a total of 7 toilets, 2 urinals and 7 wash basins. However providing all toilets as unisex / un-designated with self contained wash basins would not only eliminate any feelings of discomfort to trans or gender fluid staff members but also reduce the number of toilets needed to 5, thereby reducing cleaning costs, maintenance and also providing equitable waiting times between male and female staff.

It should be noted however that some female members of staff may feel uncomfortable using toilets (even individual cubicles) that are also used by men due to perceived differences in hygiene. Perhaps a comprise of some toilets designated and some un-designated would reduce these potential issues.  In an ideal world my view is that all toilets should be un-designated universal access “toilets for all” with full accessible toilet facilities so that any staff member no matter what sexual identity or disability would feel un-stigmatised and comfortable to use them; this will however be less space efficient and comprise is always inevitable.

Further Baker Stuart Guides

Office Design and Space Planning Series

Agile Working Series

Further reading and references


About the AuthorColin Stuart bakerstuartColin Stuart is a specialist in workplace consultancy and accommodation strategy. He has an award winning track record in the design and delivery of workplace transformation projects. A published author and speaker with an intrinsic knowledge of the drivers of corporate clients both in the public and private sector and how property can respond to those drivers in order to deliver maximum benefit to the business he has delivered major change programmes and real estate projects in both the public and private sector.
About Baker StuartBaker Stuart are a specialist consultancy who provide a range of innovative services to occupiers. Being focused solely on the workplace this has allowed us to develop expertise in depth in the analysis of our Clients' businesses, the creation and delivery of effective real estate strategies and corresponding office environments. We provide a range of consultancy services including workplace analysis, workplace consultancy, accommodation strategy, project & programme management, project procurement, furniture consultancy, contract administration, design management, change management and relocation consultancy. We have an award winning track record and have helped businesses both public and private sector, from SMEs to multinationals to use the working environment as a catalyst to drive positive behavioural change.

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Disclaimer: This article is intended as a guide only, to give you general information and a general understanding of the topics.  We strive to provide you with accurate information that can help you learn more about the topics covered on the website, but we cannot take personal or legal responsibility for your use of this information. We do not warrant the accuracy of any of the information contained in this article or elsewhere on our website and you should always check the latest official publications and seek the advice of a suitably qualified professional.

Colin Stuart
Colin Stuart is the founding Director of Baker Stuart and has more than 25 years’ experience in workplace analytics and consultancy. With a passion for creating spaces that work for people but based on evidence not on conjecture, Colin has helped deliver significant cost reductions whilst improving business performance and staff satisfaction.
About Baker Stuart

We are an independent specialist consultancy providing a comprehensive range of innovative workplace strategy, workplace management and change, move management, project management and programme management services. Thinking about optimising your organisation? Get in touch with us here.


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