Urinary Incontinence in the Workplace: 5 Essential Steps For Employers

Updated on June 13, 2023

When it comes to incontinence in the workplace, the majority of online blogs and articles put the onus on employees and workers to manage their symptoms while finding discrete ways to dispose of adult diapers.

However, employers have a duty to accommodate and create a safe and healthy environment for their employees to work in. Urinary incontinence shouldn’t stop you from living your life, and employers can absolutely make accommodations to support you in successfully and safely doing your job.

In this article we help you discover the essential steps employers should take to accommodate urinary incontinence in the workplace. From raising awareness to providing supportive measures, learn how employers can create a safe and inclusive environment for employees dealing with incontinence.

Find practical solutions and empower individuals to navigate their work responsibilities with confidence and comfort.

Urinary incontinence in the workplace: an increasingly common experience

With more and more people working well past the traditional retirement age, incontinence in the workplace is a common issue.

A person at the age of 65 is 75% more likely to be working now than someone of the same age a generation ago. Some people choose to work past the traditional age of retirement because work is a positive source of community, enjoyment, and fulfillment in their lives (like Robert DeNiro in The Intern).

Others are forced to work well past the point that they would like to retire due to financial reasons. In the US, 30% of workers over the age of 65 have nothing saved for retirement. From the high cost of living and inflation to a lack of retirement funds and support, it can be impossible to survive without an income in later life.

The COVID-19 pandemic also had a significant impact on the ability of older people to stop working. The unemployment rate for adults over 65 quadrupled during the pandemic.

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3 reasons why your employer should accommodate you

  1. Incontinence is a common concern – you aren’t alone.
  2. Incontinence is uncontrollable – it can be an uncomfortable bodily function.
  3. You are deserving of an inclusive, supportive workplace.

5 accommodations your employer should make

1. Raising awareness around incontinence and the duty to accommodate

People can spend 60% of their waking hours at work, meaning that the workplace can be some people’s primary environment.

As such, it’s essential to the health and wellbeing of employees that the workplace is a safe, respectful environment where people can work and live with their health issues without shame, awkwardness or difficulty.

In a study published in Nursing Times, 82% of working people who had bladder issues struggled with incontinence at work. 50% reported that they had taken sick time to deal with their symptoms – and half of those people did not admit that they were taking time off to deal with their incontinence issues.

The people who participated in the study, aged 40-65, noted a few key supports that would be helpful.

Having signs on the back of restroom doors indicating how the staff with incontinence can get in touch with healthcare professionals was recommended. Also, participants said that hosting a health promotion display during incontinence week would be beneficial.

This speaks to one of the key supports that participants cited: raising awareness. Raising awareness about incontinence amongst employees, HR, and occupational health staff would help to reduce the stigma as well as the shame that comes surrounding the struggling with incontinence.

Also, fostering an open work culture could be beneficial. Being able to have conversations with your employer about taking time off for a medical condition (not necessarily urinary incontinence) can help you to navigate flare-ups and difficult days where you require necessary accommodation.

Remember, your employer has a duty to accommodate you, and most importantly, you deserve a healthy work environment.

2. Supporting urinary incontinence symptoms with bathroom breaks

Employers need to be flexible about how often and how long employees step away from their desks or stations when it comes to employees who struggle with incontinence and other health issues.

Feeling comfortable enough to go to the bathroom when needed is essential for those who struggle with incontinence.

Timed voiding (the process of waiting to go to the bathroom at a set, healthy rate) aside, going to the bathroom at the drop of a hat is not only a basic human right, but it’s the difference between a trip to the restroom and a potentially stressful accident that could result in feelings of embarrassment and discomfort.

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Employers can foster a comfortable work culture for employees with incontinence by allowing flexible bathroom breaks without questions, whether it’s during lunch meetings or conference calls.

3. Providing environmental incontinence aids

There are some environmental adjustments that your work can make to support your needs. These easy swaps, considerations, and additions are effective solutions that can make a huge difference in your day.

For example, you can request an adjustable desk so you can stand instead of sitting while you work. Standing may help to ease your symptoms, as sitting can often worsen incontinence.

If you have to work at a sitting desk, consider using an exercise ball or an ergonomic chair to support your bodily comfort. Either of these options will support your posture and help you to remain more stable. Stability helps to strengthen your core, which can improve symptoms.

Your employer can also ensure you are stationed close to a workplace washroom so that in the event you need to make a dash for it, you don’t have far to go. Remember, it’s okay to request that you sit near the door during meetings. Small environmental changes can make a big difference to your comfort and health.

4. Creating more inclusive workplace washrooms

Outfitting restrooms to support those with incontinence requires consideration for discrete, dignified ways to manage symptoms.

One of the most effective ways employers can support their employees with incontinence is to provide discrete disposal options in workplace washrooms.

Adult Diaper waste disposal systems help to reduce the risk of infection, mitigate odors and provide a dignified, discrete option for disposal that isn’t the open public garbage bin.

Citron Hygiene’s incontinence waste disposal unit is a safe and clean way to enable those with incontinence to dispose of dirty adult diapers, booster pads and other undergarment care products, without risking the spread of infection and disease.

You can also advocate for access to incontinence products in your workplace restrooms, including adult diapers and booster pads.

5. Offering a hybrid approach to work

Advocating for remote work days is another way to support your health at work.

While this option may not be available for everyone, taking a hybrid approach to employment can help you to conserve your sick days while working with incontinence symptoms.

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If a hybrid approach isn’t an option for your job, consider other accommodations your employer might be able to make to the hours you work. For example, if you struggle more with incontinence later in the day, perhaps you can begin your work day earlier.

What is incontinence?

Incontinence is defined as the inability to control the flow of urine from the bladder. Urinary incontinence is also known as overactive bladder.

Incontinence is common and nothing to be ashamed of, like any mental or physical bodily function.

1 in 20 adults experience incontinence issues – but it shouldn’t stop you from living your life.

Whom does urinary incontinence affect?

Urinary incontinence is more common than you might realize! It affects over 28 million people in North America.

Approximately 1 in 2 women over the age of 50 deal with urinary incontinence.

What causes incontinence?

Short-term causes of urinary incontinence

Short-term incontinence can be caused by UTIs, vaginal infections, bladder irritation, constipation, and medications.

Long-term causes of urinary incontinence

Long-term causes of urinary incontinence can include: weak bladder or pelvic floor muscles, nerve damage, overactive bladder muscles, arthritis, and pelvic floor prolapse.

The 4 types of urinary incontinence

Stress incontinence

Stress incontinence can begin around menopause. ‘Stress’ refers to physical activity: i.e. exercise, laughing, lifting heavy objects, etc. It can also be common in younger or middle aged women.

Urge incontinence

Urge incontinence can affect people with diabetes, Alzhiemer’s, Parkinson’s, MS or those who have suffered a stroke.

Overflow incontinence

Overflow incontinence is a type of incontinence where the bladder is physically restricted, making it uncomfortable to wait to go to the bathroom. This can be caused by spinal cord injuries, diabetes or enlargements in the bladder that cause pressure.

Functional incontinence

Functional incontinence can occur in older people who are restricted from getting to the bathroom on time due to physical ailments that can make it difficult to walk quickly.

Find out how we can elevate your washroom experience today.