1

Suppose the water supply to the office block ceased, including tap water and bathroom facilities. The reason for the water supply discontinuing is unknown and there has been no communication on the issue.

Could the staff go home, citing health and safety reasons?

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  • Schools and businesses are regularly closed for this reason - see lincolnshirelive.co.uk/… from last week for example - this does not answer if this is legally or merely practically necessary though. – pwdst Dec 12 '16 at 19:24
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Does an employer have to provide drinking water to their employees?

Yes they do; consult the Welfare at Work publication by the HSE.

It is also stated in the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 schedule 3 s10.

Can you simply leave if your workplace's water supply stopped working?

Not necessarily, I would consider factors such as time the workplace has been without water, whether the employer was prompt in fixing the issue, how impactful to work the lack of water was, was free water accessible in a nearby area etc. These are things that would support your case if you wanted to take your employer to court. Though it doesn't say you wouldn't be allowed to leave work, I'm not sure if the pure fact that the water supply has stopped working would be enough to justify you simply leaving the premises.

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  • Note this says drinking water, not running water. Many workplaces provide drinking water from a bottled source, so they're not reliant on a mains supply. The main practical effect of losing running water is on the ability to flush the loos, and I would think many places would have to send people home if the toilets can't be flushed. – Michael Kay Nov 13 '18 at 17:44
1

Probably

Under Australian law (UK law is similar) the obligation is on the Person Controlling a Business or Undertaking (which includes but is broader than employer) to provide a safe place of work including access to amenities. Amenities would include safe drinking and washing water.

It is not uncommon in remote area work where such things as running water are not available for the PCBU to provide bottled water for drinking and tanks (10l +) for hand washing.

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  • I imagine time would have to be a consideration as well, right? Surely employees would not be entitled to walk-out because the water was off for an hour or two... But if it was out for days... that would be a different story. – Anthony McCloskey Sep 13 '16 at 17:34
  • 1
    If it happened in some town in the UK, you could go to any restaurant nearby and ask them for water and to use their toilet; they might charge you since you are clearly not a customer, and I'd be sure that your employer would have to give you the time off and refund your cost. So you might not have the right to walk out and get paid. – gnasher729 Sep 16 '16 at 12:46

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