bathroom breaks canada

Canadian workers not legally entitled to bathroom breaks and people can't believe it

Receiving adequate breaks during long periods of work has been a major topic of conversation across the country as of late, particularly among transit workers.

We've seen strikes or near-strikes by transit employees in Hamilton and Vancouver, and along the CN Rail in the last month or so alone, all over things like benefits, working conditions, overtime, and yes, proper breaks. 

But apparently, employers aren't actually legally obligated to provide their staff with bathroom breaks, according to the Canada Labour Code — something that bus drivers in Ottawa are learning this week.

The code mandates that all workers receive an unpaid break of "at least 30 minutes" — ostensibly to do things like eat, rest, and use the washroom if you have time — after five consecutive hours on the job.

But, your boss is not required to provide you with any additional bathroom breaks outside of those 30 minutes. And, there is the option for you to work through the break if they pay you for it.

Canadians can't seem to believe that this is the case, but human rights lawyers point out to CTV News that there are no specific laws surrounding bathroom breaks because they're something that has traditionally been left up to the "common sense and reasonableness" of employers.

Though it's hard to imagine working in an environment where you're not permitted to take a break to relieve yourself if you really have to go, some social media users have proposed solutions that would definitely prove a point — that is, for anyone who has the guts to urinate (or worse) on their office floor.

There are also industries like transit or hospitality to consider, in which taking frequent breaks, no matter how short, just isn't possible during long routes or peak times.

And, the fact of the matter still remains that employers "do not have to give employees 'coffee' breaks or any other kind of break" outside of the half-hour meal period described.

For those of us with bosses who are human enough to let us take toilet breaks whenever we need them, let's just hope this news doesn't give them any ideas.

Lead photo by

Jan Kolar

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