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All about Essential facilities in the workplace

There are certain work facilities that are deemed essential for employees to be able to carry out their duties efficiently and effectively. These essential facilities may be physical, technical or informational in nature, and are necessary to ensure a safe, comfortable and productive working environment.

In the UK, there are legal requirements for employers to provide certain facilities and these are designed to protect employees’ health, safety and welfare. In this article, we will explore the concept of essential welfare facilities in the workplace, the different types and examples, legal requirements, employer responsibilities, and employee rights and expectations. By understanding the importance of these facilities and the responsibilities of both employers and employees, we can create better workplaces that promote employee well-being and productivity.

What are facilities in the workplace?

Workplace facilities that come under this umbrella include amenities, resources and services provided by an employer to support the work of their employees. Physical facilities may include toilets, break rooms, kitchens and first aid rooms. Technical facilities may include computers, printers, telephones and other communication equipment. Informational facilities may include access to company policies and procedures, training materials and other relevant information employees need to be able to do their jobs effectively.

In the UK, there are legal requirements for employers to provide certain facilities in the workplace. The Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 means employers must consider the health, safety and welfare of their employees while at work.

This includes providing adequate facilities such as toilet facilities and first aid rooms and ensuring that they are maintained and kept in good working order. Two other important pieces of legislation include the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations of 1999 and the Health, Safety and Welfare Regulations of 1992, which stipulate how employees might implement the rules.

The Equality Act 2010 also requires employers to make reasonable adjustments to accommodate employees with disabilities, which may include access to specific facilities or equipment.

In addition to legal requirements, providing adequate facilities in the workplace is essential for creating a positive and productive work environment. By ensuring that employees have access to the facilities they need, employers can help to promote employee well-being and job satisfaction, as well as enhance productivity and efficiency.

Facilities in workplace break room

What welfare facilities are essential in the workplace?

There are several welfare facilities that are essential in the workplace to ensure the health, safety and welfare of employees and without which a business cannot operate. These facilities may vary depending on the work being carried out and the number of employees.

Some of the essential welfare facilities in the workplace include:

Toilet and washbasin facilities

As per the Workplace Regulations 1992, employers are required to provide adequate toilet facilities for employees. The number of toilets required depends on the number of employees.

The rules stipulate:

  • If there are five or fewer employees, there only needs to be one toilet and one washbasin. This can be for women only or mixed use.
  • When there are 6 to 25 employees, a workplace needs at least two washbasins and two toilets.
  • Between 26 and 50, there should be three of each.
  • Between 51 and 75, there should be four of each.
  • If there are between 76 and 100 people, there should be five toilets and five washbasins.
  • For every 25 people thereafter, there should be one extra washbasin and toilet.

Ideally, there should also be separate toilet facilities for men and women. If this is not possible, the toilets must be lockable.

If the workforce is predominantly male, the provision of toilet facilities is different:

  • Between one and 15 men, one urinal and one toilet.
  • Between 16 and 30 men, one urinal and two toilets.
  • From 31 to 45 men, two urinals and two toilets.
  • From 46 to 60 men, two urinals and three toilets.
  • From 61 to 75 men, three urinals and three toilets.
  • From 76 to 90 men, three urinals and four toilets.
  • Up to 100 men, four urinals and four toilets.
  • When there are more than 100 men, you’ll need an additional urinal and toilet for every additional 50 people.

The rooms must be adequately ventilated and lit, have warm water, and be kept clean. Finally, there should always be an adequate supply of soap and toilet paper (and hand towels, if used) as well as a way of disposing of sanitary products.

If the workers are at a place with no washing or toilet facilities, chemical or portable toilets must be provided alongside washing facilities.

Drinking water

Employers must provide access to clean drinking water. This should be readily available throughout the working day and be free from contamination. Ideally, drinking water should be available from the mains water supply. If this isn’t possible, bottled water dispensers are acceptable. There should be cups available or a drinking fountain. Without adequate drinking water supplies, employees are at risk of becoming tired, sluggish and lightheaded, which might result in dehydration.

Rest areas

Employers should provide rest areas for employees to take breaks and rest during the working day. This may include a break room, canteen or other suitable area. The area should have washing facilities close by as well as some way of heating food or making hot drinks.

Kitchen facilities are not classed as essential facilities as such, but the regulations do state that employees must have access to hot food when at work. This means that a microwave is a legal requirement when there isn’t a facility such as a staff canteen or places where workers can buy a hot meal.

Changing areas

If the nature of the work requires a change of clothes like overalls, a uniform, or thermal wear, for example, then there must be adequate changing spaces available. There should be separate facilities for men and women and hanging facilities like hooks or hangers.

The changing facilities should provide adequate privacy when changing and should also have seating. If Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is used, there should be facilities to store it or hang it up to dry as necessary.

First aid facilities

Employers are required to provide adequate first aid facilities and equipment, including a first aid kit and trained first-aiders.

Facilities for pregnant and nursing women

Employers should provide facilities for pregnant and nursing women. This might mean creating a private room for expressing milk or resting and fridge facilities where expressed milk can be stored.

Facilities for people with a disability

Employers are required to make reasonable adjustments to ensure that disabled employees have access to the same facilities as non-disabled employees.

The nature of adjustments and facilities will depend on employee disabilities.

It may include:

  • Installing ramps.
  • Providing accessible toilets.
  • Installing visual alarms for hearing-impaired workers.
  • Creating quiet spaces for neurodivergent workers (e.g., those with ASD or ADHD).

Besides this, the Health and Safety Executive dictates that facilities need to be clean and in good condition.

It is important for employers to assess the specific needs of their workplace and employees to ensure that all necessary welfare facilities are provided. Failure to provide adequate welfare facilities can result in legal action and may also have a negative impact on employee well-being and productivity.

Ramp for wheelchair user

Requirements for a healthy workplace

Creating a healthy workplace is essential to ensure the well-being and productivity of employees.

There are several requirements for a healthy workplace that employers should consider, including:

Ventilation

Adequate ventilation is necessary to ensure good indoor air quality and prevent the build-up of pollutants and airborne pathogens. Ventilation can be in the form of opening windows or a ventilation system. If there are fumes due to the nature of the work, ventilation is even more important.

Since the introduction of the Health Act of 2006, on 1 July 2007, it became illegal to smoke in enclosed workplaces. This means that employers do not need to provide a smoking area on the premises. If there are employees who smoke, employers have a duty of care to ensure they protect other employees against secondary smoke inhalation by insisting smokers don’t smoke near entrance doors or underneath open windows, for example.

The provision of a covered smoking pod could be made and this must be far from the office entrance to ensure no smoke enters through windows or doors. Though smoking is discouraged, if there are staff who smoke, providing them with a means to do it cleanly with facilities like ashtrays could be a positive. According to Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), around 15% of men and 12.5% of women smoke cigarettes in the UK and so it’s likely that a large company will have some smokers on its staff.

Temperature

The workplace should be maintained at a comfortable temperature to ensure the well-being and productivity of employees.

As per legislation, if the nature of the work is strenuous, then the minimum temperature can be as low as 13°C. In an otherwise normal, indoor working environment, it should be a minimum of 16°C.

There are no maximum temperature figures, however. This is due to the different working environments, for example in a plastic injection moulding unit or at a smelting foundry. Also, there are other factors at play like air movement and humidity, which affect how comfortable the temperature is.

Lighting

Adequate lighting is necessary to prevent eye strain and promote productivity. The lighting should be appropriate for the nature of the work being carried out. Poor lighting can cause negative health symptoms like headaches, migraine and eyestrain so it’s important to ensure lighting is suitable for the work being carried out. What’s more, if the lighting isn’t bright enough, it’s also a safety hazard too.

Sufficient space

Employees should be provided with sufficient workspace to carry out their duties comfortably and safely. This includes adequate desk space, seating and storage.

Cleanliness

The workplace should be kept clean and hygienic to prevent the spread of disease and maintain a safe and healthy environment.

Facilities for a safe work environment

Facilities for a safe work environment are critical for ensuring the health, safety and welfare of employees and employers should provide essential facilities to create a safe and healthy work environment for their employees.

Below are some of the facilities that employers should consider to create a safe work environment:

1.Keep paths clear of obstructions: Employers should ensure that paths and walkways are kept clear of obstructions to prevent trips, slips and falls. This includes ensuring that equipment and materials are stored properly and that walkways are well-lit.

2.Windows that can be opened or secured: Windows that can be opened provide natural ventilation and improve indoor air quality. However, they should be secured to prevent falls or injuries.

3.Personal Protective Equipment (PPE): Employers should provide appropriate PPE to employees based on their work activities. This may include items such as safety glasses, gloves and hard hats to protect employees from hazards in the workplace.

4.Emergency equipment: Employers should provide essential emergency equipment such as fire extinguishers, first aid kits and defibrillators to ensure that employees can respond to emergencies quickly and effectively.

5.Hazardous material storage: Employers should ensure that hazardous materials are stored in designated areas and that appropriate safety measures are in place to prevent spills, leaks and other accidents.

By providing these facilities, employers can create a safe work environment for their employees and prevent accidents and injuries in the workplace. Employers should conduct regular risk assessments to identify hazards in the workplace and ensure that appropriate facilities are in place to mitigate these risks.

Employer responsibilities for providing essential facilities

Employers have a legal responsibility to provide welfare facilities in the workplace to ensure their employees’ health, safety and welfare. This includes ensuring that the workplace has adequate amenities.

Below are some of the key employer responsibilities when it comes to providing essential facilities in the workplace:

  • Duty of care: Employers have a legal duty of care to ensure the health, safety and welfare of their employees while at work. This includes providing essential facilities and ensuring that they are maintained in good working order.
  • Risk assessments: Employers should conduct regular risk assessments to identify any hazards in the workplace that may pose a risk to employees’ health and safety. This includes assessing the need for specific facilities and ensuring that they are provided where necessary.
  • Implementation of policies and procedures: Employers should have policies and procedures in place to make sure that essential facilities are not only provided but also maintained. These policies should outline the specific requirements for each facility, as well as the procedures for reporting and addressing any issues that arise.
  • Maintaining and updating facilities: Employers should ensure that essential facilities are regularly maintained and updated as necessary. This includes conducting regular inspections, addressing any issues promptly, and ensuring that facilities are accessible and appropriate for all employees.

By fulfilling these employer responsibilities, employers can create a safe and healthy work environment for their employees and promote their well-being and productivity. Failure to provide essential facilities or meet legal requirements can result in legal action and negatively impact employee morale and productivity.

Facilities in workplace for safety

Employee rights and expectations

Employees have the right to access essential facilities in the workplace and to work in a safe and healthy environment. Employers have a legal responsibility to provide these facilities and ensure they are in good working order. Employees should be aware of their rights and expectations when it comes to essential facilities in the workplace.

If an employee encounters an issue or concern regarding essential facilities, they should report it to their employer immediately. Employers should have policies and procedures in place to address these concerns and take appropriate action to resolve the issue. Employers should respond promptly and effectively to ensure that the facilities are maintained and available to all employees.

In cases where an employer fails to provide essential facilities or address issues and concerns, employees have the right to seek legal action. This can include filing a complaint with the Health and Safety Executive or taking legal action through an employment tribunal.

Final thoughts

Welfare facilities in the workplace are critical for ensuring the health, safety and well-being of employees. Employers have a legal responsibility to provide these facilities and maintain them in good working order.

From basic welfare facilities such as toilets and drinking water to more specific facilities for pregnant or disabled employees, it is crucial that employers provide the necessary facilities to create a safe and healthy work environment. Employers should also consider keeping paths clear of obstructions and providing appropriate PPE and emergency equipment in order to maintain a safe work environment.

By fulfilling these responsibilities, employers can create a positive workplace culture that promotes employee well-being, productivity and job satisfaction. Employers who fail to provide essential facilities or meet legal requirements may face legal action and have a negative impact on employee morale and productivity. Overall, ensuring that welfare facilities are provided and maintained is key to creating a safe and healthy workplace for employees in the UK.

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About the author

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Louise Woffindin

Louise is a writer and translator from Sheffield. Before turning to writing, she worked as a secondary school language teacher. Outside of work, she is a keen runner and also enjoys reading and walking her dog Chaos.



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