Food and allergy intolerance
Rates of allergies have risen sharply in the last 20 years. 44% of adults in the UK suffer from one or more types of allergy. As a result, it is now increasingly likely that employers will need to support staff within their workforce who suffer from allergies.
Employers have legal ‘duty of care’ obligations and, under health and safety legislation, must protect the health and safety of employees by removing or reducing workplace risks. There is a legal duty on employers to take reasonable steps to prevent foreseeable injuries, so they could face a personal injury claim if sufficient steps are not taken.
If an allergy amounts to a disability under the Equality Act 2010, the employer will have a duty to make reasonable adjustments, and the employee will be protected against less favourable treatment. For allergies which are serious, it is highly likely that the definition of disability will be met.
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How Loch Training & Wellbeing can help:
To prevent people with food allergies from suffering dangerous reactions, controlling allergens at work is crucial. People can have allergies to any food, but the Food Standards Agency lists 14 named allergens that are most common. Eight of these cause around 90% of allergic reactions (known as the big 8 food allergies).
Our food intolerance testing can help employees understand what may be affecting them by looking at 57 of the most common foods and allergies. The results can help employers to understand their employee’s health risks and enable you to work together to minimise exposure to allergens at work.
We can also advise employers on adjustments that can be made to help prevent allergic reactions at work.
First aiders should know how to respond to reactions. They should know where to find and how to administer the person’s epipen or auto injector. Ideally, even co-workers will know how to help in an emergency. This is separate training that we also offer here at Loch Associates Group.
Loch Training & Wellbeing
This is one of the best courses I have been on. The content has been very relevant and practical which will help me in my role and also in my personal life. The instructors have been engaging; passing on their passion for this subject.
I am highly appreciative of the advice and work I received from Joe Milner and the team at Loch Associates Group.
Joe assisted me with drafting complex supplier contracts and templates for my business and I cannot praise him enough. The work was thorough and Joe’s attention to detail showed he had taken time to really understand what was needed, suggesting ways to adapt them as necessary for our business.
All communications, including from the support team were clear and timely. It was interesting to hear they offer a retainer service, which means Joe can effectively work as the Company’s in-house counsel too, which is a useful service for a business of our size.
Thank you again!
Being a new employer can be very daunting but she gave me the confidence to forge ahead with the process always explaining things in a straight forward manner.
I found this course to be excellent. The knowledge I have gained a be so useful for my work and personal. The learning exercises were so good too. It was also beneficial to discuss experiences with others.
Bruce was a very engaging trainer, and very creative in his approach. He had his audience connecting very well. The training course was very interesting. Thank you, Bruce.
Your approach is one of collaboration, taking your time to understand the issues, and our position, and then working proactively with us in a practical manner.
Your note was very clear about the seemingly complicated and tricky matter and was very helpful in forming our view. Thanks again for your valuable advice and I look forward to working with you in the future.
When I saw Bruce last year I was in a very bad place mentally. For me personally, he came into my life at the right time and if it wasn’t for him I really don’t know if I would be here today. He listened to me and made other people listen and changes were made for the better which helped me, as it improved my life for me. I am in a much better place now and happier in my work and it’s all thanks to Bruce.
Your note was clear about the matter and was helpful in forming our review
A pragmatic and common-sense approach is a key factor in why I turn to the firm for advice.
Bruce was extremely knowledgeable and friendly and made the 3 days training really enjoyable. His experience as a paramedic gave us 100% confidence that we were receiving the best possible training.
The whole team is always incredibly responsive, and they work hard to ensure that the process is as smooth as possible.
The firm is unique, bespoke, and provides a fantastic personalised service.
Thanks for all your help. Very impressed with how you pressed the negotiations forward on Wednesday to allow us to reach a quick resolution.
With his first-hand experience in dealing with all kinds of medical emergencies; Bruce is not only able to provide us with the latest guidelines and techniques but also the kind of personal support you need when facing the stressful situation of how you will react during a medical emergency.
Thank you for the superb advice you have provided us with over the years.
I was an attendee of the course and after talking to my colleagues who were there we have all said how eye-opening and informative it was. We found a more interactive approach was beneficial as we could relate and draw from our own experiences.
Are allergies a disability?
There is not one clear answer on this from a legal perspective, but more a mixed case law. In short, allergies are not excluded from the definition of disability, but it depends on the severity of the allergy.
In one case, the Tribunal concluded that diet-controlled conditions (including allergies and diabetes) do not have a substantial effect on the ability of an individual to carry out day-to-day activities (one of the tests for a disability) as there are reasonable avoidance strategies available.
In another case in 2012, it was found that a chef with a severe nut allergy was disabled.
In practice, the question of whether an allergy sufferer is classed as disabled will depend on the severity of their allergy and the ease by which it can be controlled (and how much of an effect such avoidance or control has on day-to-day activities).
For example, if an individual has an allergy to atmospheric allergens and is unable to work in an office environment without suffering an allergic reaction, the allergy may be found to have a major effect on day-to-day activities. In contrast, an allergy to a single food which can be avoided by the sufferer refraining from consuming it, is unlikely to have a substantial adverse effect on day to day activities in itself.
Why should an employer be concerned?
Although it might be easy to think that having an allergy is an issue for the employee to manage, an employer has the following obligations:
- Under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, employers must “so far as is reasonably practicable” protect the health and safety of employees by removing or reducing workplace risks.
- If an allergy amounts to a disability, then the employer will have a duty to make reasonable adjustments for the allergy sufferer.
- An employer has a common law duty of care to its employees. Where the risk of injury is foreseeable the employer may be at risk of a personal injury claim if it does not take steps to prevent such injury.
What should employers do?
The following are a few tips as to what an employer could/should do when they have employees which suffer from allergies:
- On an individual basis, from a risk management point of view, the exact nature and severity of the allergy should be obtained from the employee.
- Consider whether the employee should be asked to identify themselves as an allergy sufferer for the benefit of any first aiders or colleagues.
- Consider a general policy on the most common severe allergens; for example, a ban on consuming peanuts at desks or storing shellfish products in any communal fridge.
- Ensuring a high level of cleanliness, especially where there is shared equipment or kitchen resources.
- Consider whether an allergy sufferer should be presented with a personalised allergy policy/contract. This would make it clear to the employee not only what the employer was doing to accommodate their allergy but would also clearly identify the employee’s obligation to carry their own medication and take reasonable precautions not to ingest any allergen.
If a person’s allergy is so severe as to amount to a disability, an employer should also consider whether any reasonable adjustments are possible. These may include:
- Supplying the employee with their own storage and utensils;
- Allowing for time off to attend allergy appointments;
- Permitting an employee to have a “fixed desk” in a hot-desking environment; and
- Ensuring that the employee is not excluded from any work functions due to their allergy.