Allergies And The Workplace

Creating a working environment where employees can safely undertake their jobs is part of an employer’s Duty of Care under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.

The Equality Act 2010 prohibits discrimination on several grounds called protected characteristics. Under the Equality Act, it is unlawful to discriminate against someone because of age, disability, gender, gender reassignment, marriage or civil partnership, pregnancy or maternity, race, sex, and sexual orientation and, importantly, religion or belief. These protected characteristics of individual employees must be respected and given due regard.

Some allergy-related incidents will need to be reported under Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrence Regulations 2003 (RIDDOR).

Disability discrimination: 10 conditions employers might overlook

If your food allergy is severe, it may be worth thinking about working in other industries, for your own safety and peace of mind.

  • Clothing, and department stores
  • Other retail outlets (i.e., electronic, book, homewares)
  • Pharmacies or news agencies
  • Pub work (not including restaurant work)
  • Recreation/sports clubs
  1. When applying for a new job, make employer aware of your allergies.
  2. Find out if your future or present employer has an allergy policy. If there is a policy, is it outdated, maybe you can help rewrite a new one.
  3. If allergies come on in later life, speak to management or human resources. ACAS states: ‘Where the employee is allergic to a product used in the workplace the employer should consider remedial action or a transfer to alternative work’.
  4. Find out if there is a first aider, find out will there be a first aider on every shift you are on, does that first aider know about anaphylaxis and treatment.
  5. Talk about cross contamination.
  6. Is there a staff canteen? Make the kitchen staff aware.
  7. Are there fridges to store your food? What can be done to stop cross contamination? Suggest labelling of foods and separate shelves.
  8. Is the company willing to restrict the allergen you are allergic to in your department? But this might need to be considered seriously as this can cause implications or impracticalities.
  9. Staff parties and catering if an outside caterer can you contact them prior?
  10. If allergies come on in later life, is the company you are working for willing to accommodate your allergies and make necessary changes? E.g., if working with food, can you be transferred to administration role if allergy is severe.
  11. Any bullying for food allergies should not be tolerated and you should approach senior management or human resources to report it.
  12. Teach the people around you, maybe suggest if you are confident enough to do a talk.
  13. Give permission to your employer to allow them to talk to staff about your allergies, maybe put it writing, so this gives your employer the permission.
  14. Make everyone that works with you where your adrenaline auto-injector is located.
  15. Have an action plan / emergency plan. Keep with your adrenaline auto-injector.
  16. Tell your co-workers about symptoms of anaphylaxis.
  17. Wear medical ID jewellery.
  18. Always carry your adrenaline auto-injector with you e.g., meetings, change of location, canteen, leaving workplace.
  19. Your employer should have an Equality and Diversity policy in place.
  20. Work with your employers, be willing to put yourself forward to give guidance, support, or teaching.
  21. Educate people about your allergies in a way that does not alienate you from your work colleagues.
  22. If thinking of different employment, think about the role and how will it affect your allergies? E.g., airborne allergens, handling allergens,
  23. Ask your co-workers to wash cutlery, and crockery with warm soapy water or rinse and place straight into the dishwasher immediately after they finish their lunch.
  24. Ask co-workers to wipe down the kitchen surfaces with a clean cloth after they have prepared their lunch.
  25. If you share computer, computer desk ask the person to avoid eating at the desk and wipe down your workstation before using.
  26. If you feel unsafe at any point during your working shift, peak t the member of staff and if you are still concerned speak HR or management.
  27. If unsure about work food or feel unconfident about it, take in your own food, always better to be safe.
  28. Ask your employer about their liability insurance cover, and if it has a disclaimer.
  29. Employees have a duty of care to take reasonable steps to protect themselves.

Equality and Human Rights Commission

ACAS (Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service) guides to support the development of equality and diversity policies. 

Emergency Action plan

These lists are guidance only, and not fully extensive, people are advised that it is the responsibility of the individual when using this information.

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