Retail Employee Rostered on for 3.5 Hours without Ability to Access Toilet

Hi Ozbargain,

I've been working for my current employer for over 2 years (retail liquor industry). In the last 6 months I have gotten a new manager and recently he had cut back shifts. Next week on one day I'm rostered to work for three and half hours until the next employee rocks up.

My store has no toilet installed (have to leave the store for 3-5 minutes to access as bathroom) and due to the design of the store I am basically unable to close the store up to access the bathroom. This effectively restricts me from accessing the bathroom for the first 3.5 hrs of my shift until the next guy rocks up (total shift length is 6 hours). The EBA states "an employee can take a toilet break regardless of their entitlement to a rest break".

Curious as to everyone opinions about this and any ideas of what I can do other than contacting the union (assuming that you agree with me that it's unfair by my employer).


closed Comments

  • Does seem a bit unfair, and I assume their natural response will be "go before you start and you should be fine" which may well be true, but it's still not a great situation.

    I'd do the shift, and even if you don't NEED to go for those early hours, give him the feedback that you were desperate for a wee and it was not appropriate that there was no way to go while only one employee was on.

    I'd be interested into their response. I'd write it down, so you can arm yourself if they dismiss your concerns.

    • Hey mate, thanks for the feedback, do already go before as I was previously rostered for 2 hours by myself. I think 3.5 is a bit much to expect someone to go without access to the bathroom. May be possible sometimes but certainly can't guarantee every week that I'm not going to need to go in 3 and a half hours. Boss doesn't seem to care lol.

    • To clarify: I work for a larger super market chain (basically narrows it down to coles/liquorland or Woolworths/bws lol) and my boss's response was to get someone from the supermarket to cover for me when I go to the restroom however no one from the supermarket has their RSA or approved managers certificate (required in WA) so I don't think this is legal

      • Pretty sure it's legal for them to mind the store, but not legal for them to serve.

        • As the approved manager on duty, am I liable if an unaccompanied minor were to enter the store (1000$ fine) or would the supermarket employee, I would be considered the approved manager on duty but they would be the one minding the store (without any signed contract or union agreement). Cheers

          • @joungs: Are you in WA? I'm not sure of the WA legislation, but in QLD the approved manager is responsible for the fines unless they can prove a staff member with RSA and adequate training is liable.

            • @AdosHouse: Yep in WA, was told by the RGL that we would get a fine if an unaccompanied minor enters the store without being challenged (i.e asked for ID) that's why I don't trust a supermarket employee to do it. Cheers.

              • @joungs: In WA is your bottleshop licenced to a pub? And if so are they attached on in the carpark of the Centre?

                • @AdosHouse: No pub just a supermarket,and my store was built in the only passage way between this supermarket and a car park (don't ask me why)

                  • @joungs: That's a stupid design. How do you stop kids using it as a causeway? All well and good to say to them they can't walk through, but kids/teens rarely listen when it's inconvenient to them.

                    • @AdosHouse: Very poorly designed imo (have so many thefts too), we are required to confront them as soon as possible to ask for ID or inform them they cant come into the store. Also have signage at entrances.

              • @joungs: Can an underage person not be on the premises at all? I thought it related to not serving them. What do parents with kids do when they come in?

      • One workaround would be for someone (duty managers) from the supermarket to get their RSA to be paid by the liquor store. I think this would be more cost effective in the long run.

        If you get your union involved or escalate the issue via the steps in your EA, the only work around seems to be that or having more staff on. Anything else could violate the liquor laws or health and safety laws from what you have said.

        Maybe speak to the liquor licensing authority in WA. Tell them the situation and specifically ask if you (or your boss who has caused the issue) would be liable if someone without an RSA minds the store.

      • I’m confused, if your boss said it’s okay, whats the issue? Document that advice.

        • Easy for him to say when id be the one facing a fine..

          • @joungs: It’s good that you’ve asked the union. The employer is required to comply with the enterprise agreement.

            If you’re concerned about your liability you are allowed to ask your workplace relations/industrial relations/HR people for advice, but since your union is probably already doing this, no need.

            I’d ask them ‘I work alone in xxx store for xxx period. Given i hold the requirement to comply with licensing laws and could face a personal fine for a breach, what are my options if I need to go to the toilet’

            WR/IR/HR usually check with legal. You can also confirm with the regulatory authority.

  • Empty beer bottles come to mind

  • +2 votes

    Your union will give you free advice on this matter

    • Thanks mate awaiting their reply, curious still to see the communities opinion on the matter whether I'm just being a wuss.

  • i used to work in liquor retail, with the same issue. I just closed the store for 5 minutes when it was quiet. or if i was feeling lazy, piss in the sink

    • Hey mate used to do this at my old store but current store is stupidly design so effectively impossible to close during the day without a VERY large amount of angry customers. Would use the sink but we have a HD camera pointed right at it aha

      • well they can be angry. why the f are you closed. "i needed to pee".

        • Honestly considered it, but would effectively be preventing people from getting back to their cars as they use us to access the supermarket and rest of the shopping centere. Would prefer an alternative

          • @joungs: meh, screw them, you need to pee, if anyone gets shitty they can take it up with manangement (not your problem). You're not going on a holiday, you need to pee, and you're doing it quick.

        • Is the sink in a kitchen area or the public area of the store? If in a lunchroom environment, having a camera there may be considered as undue monitoring of staff via CCTV surveillance.
          Your Union could also advise on this matter.

      • Hold a piss until you're busting, go in there to wash your hands, box on camera, run the water and do your business. Zip up fly, wash hands, turn off water, remove box.

        Wouldnt suprise me if the camera is fake. Also, i take the view that cameras are a passive deterrent, unless something actually happens, nobody looks through cameras, and depending on the age of the system, they're probably overwritten every month anyway… or even daily (privacy issues aside)

        Honestly its probably going to take you longer to install the box, than just to stand a certain way and block yourself while you piss in the sink. The first time i did it, i was scared AF. Thought it would be seconds before the "retail police" would drag me out in cuffs and shackles. It's all a facade.

        If anyone comes in like a ninja (happened to me once) just say "1 minute, just washing my hands" and walk out like nothing has happened. In reality, if you ran into the store, and someone said "just washing my hands", you'd give them the 20 seconds without even thinking what they were doing.

        IMO you're probably young, this is your first job and not aware of reality. I was told stuff like 'the boss can log in at any time and check live', not true. They can log in after the fact, but some boss isn't going to trawl through hundreds of hours of cctv footage to check on staff who are working normally.

        Or, if you're so inclined, get a wide neck bottle, like gatorade, do your business elsewhere, then go straight to the sink, wash it out thoroughly and leave the bottle for the next time. Throw the lid out because you never seal piss, it's either being used, or its upside down in the sink.

  • I would speak to your superior and tell them that having someone covering you will take longer than having the store closed with a “back in __ minutes” sign.
    Going through the trouble of finding and waiting for a Coles employee to cover for you and then going to the bathroom will only result in a longer amount of time (of the store being effectively temporarily closed).
    Plenty of times I have seen the “back in __ minutes” sign on the liquor store window, and other stores (presumably with only 1 employee working a shift).

    • Hi unfortunately doubt my boss will care unless we get heaps of negative feedback from customers. As stated previously I'm effectively unable to close up this store for 5 minutes due to the design of the store.

      • Are there no security guys to hold the fort for a few minutes? My local Coles always has at least one loitering outside the checkouts.

        When nature calls, I couldn’t stretch to 3.5 hours. Simply no room for negotiation.

  • No way could I hold on for three and a half hours.

  • I’d be finding another job. Sounds like incredibly poor design.

  • due to the design of the store I am basically unable to close the store up

    Every colesworth that we have come across have roller shutters. Why can't you close it and do your 5 min business?

  • Am I the only one that thinks three and a half hours isn't really that long a time? If you had to work all day I would understand.

    • Some people can't hold it. Some of our workers are regular as clockwork. Once every hour. Some every two hours and some goes once during a 12 hour shift.

    • No, it's not that long, but neither is going 36 hours without sleeping, a week without eating, a year without physical contact with another human being.

      Completely doable, but definitely not ideal. For me I aim to use the bathroom every 1.5 hours, so a 3.5 hour shift would be pushing it.

      Inversely, is having customers wait for five minutes really that long a time?

  • The EBA states "an employee can take a toilet break regardless of their entitlement to a rest break".

    Your EBA has the answer. If you need to go, you can. If the employer is cutting costs by reducing staff, that's their problem. They can't unreasonably restrict you from taking a toilet break. 3.5hrs is a long time!

    • The problem is I either have to lock up the store which is effectively impossible or I'm still liable for any liquor laws that are broken while I'm gone..

      • If you need to use the bathroom and there are no other staff members who are qualified to mind the shop then you need to close the shop. The customers can wait, if they complain directly to you then just explain the situation and let them know they can complain directly to the store manager. Management will soon get the picture and provide a suitable alternative. Store managers hate nothing more than getting complaints from customers and will find a solution.

        Also have you asked your liquor manager what you should do in this situation or just assuming he will tell you to hold on for the whole shift?

      • The EBA says what you are entitled to. It is not optional for your employer to prevent you from what is written.

        It's not up to you to find a workable solution, that's up to your employer.

        Either stand up for what's in your EBA or hold on for 3.5 hours or get another job.

  • Everyone saying 3.5 hours isn’t very long is absolute bull, what if you’re a woman on her period? What is she supposed to do on a heavy day, bleed out til the next person shows up? Would love to see the complaints then.

    • No curry the night before!

    • It is true, some people use the bathroom for things other than wizzing!

      Three and a half hours is too long for some people, and fine for others. Manager needs to assume all staff are in the "too long" category when rostering people on. One person manning a entire bottle shop seems low anyway, while you "help" one person, their accomplice could be pinching a nice bottle of scotch (or two).

  • I work for bws. You just shut the shop. I highly doubt you are the only passage from the carpark, I'm sure people can walk around. Thats not on you to worry about.

    I feel you're overthinking this. If you have to go shut the shop and go.

    • brofist

      Glad someone else feels the same way. In the end, it's less than 5 minutes. OP isnt going on a holiday stroll around and taking a lunch break.

      If you need to go, you need to go.

      • Yeah even he says he can't shut the shop, just put a back in 5 mins sign on the counter. If anything happens he's well within his rights if he had to use the toilet.

  • Hey guys thanks for the feedback, situation seems to be resolved for now as company is agreeing to make sure the supermarket staff get their RSAs.

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