Employees at an Amazon Fulfillment Center in the UK have taken to a "toilet bottle" system for fear that regular bathroom breaks might cost them their job, an author alleges after working undercover at the warehouse.
The whistleblower, James Bloodworth, took a job at the fulfillment center in Staffordshire while writing a book on low wages in the UK. He claims that bathroom access at the facility is scarce, with some workers located several floors from the nearest toilet. Coupled with ambitious productivity targets and strictly regimented break schedules, the situation has forced some workers to take drastic measures, Bloodworth says.
A survey of 241 British fulfillment center employees released separately on Monday found that about three quarters of respondents were afraid of taking a traditional bathroom break, citing time concerns.
"The breaks are too strict," one respondent writes. "By the time you walk to get a drink you don't have time to use toilet let alone sit down. If you're 2 minutes late you get a 'break abuse', at five break abuses you are fired."
Amazon disputes the veracity of the report, telling CNET the following:
"Amazon provides a safe and positive workplace for thousands of people across the UK with competitive pay and benefits from day one. We have not been provided with confirmation that the people who completed the survey worked at Amazon and we don't recognize these allegations as an accurate portrayal of activities in our buildings.
We have a focus on ensuring we provide a great environment for all our employees and last month Amazon was named by LinkedIn as the seventh most sought-after place to work in the UK and ranked first place in the US. Amazon also offers public tours of its fulfilment centres so customers can see first-hand what happens after they click "buy" on Amazon.
Amazon ensures all of its associates have easy access to toilet facilities which are just a short walk from where they are working."
An Amazon spokesperson acknowledges that the company expects " a certain level of performance from our associates," but adds that productivity targets are measured and evaluated over long periods of time. "We know that a variety of things could impact the ability to meet expectations in any given day or hour. We support people who are not performing to the levels expected with dedicated coaching to help them improve."
Amazon associates are allowed to use the toiler whenever needed, the spokesperson adds. "We do not monitor toilet breaks."
Editor's Note: Updated at 12:15 PM EST on 4/16/18 to include additional comment from Amazon.