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Legal Employee Break Room Requirements in the UK

Taking a break from work is an essential part of any job. It can help to refresh and refocus the mind, allowing employees to be more productive in their roles. As such, many businesses opt to provide amenities such as break rooms or kitchens for their staff. But does the UK legally require employers to do this?

break room office

Does the UK legally require businesses to provide break rooms or kitchens?

The short answer is no. There is no legislation that specifically states a business must provide a kitchen or break room for its staff. However, there are other laws and regulations employers must comply with that may make providing such amenities necessary.

For example, the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 requires employers to ensure the safety of their employees while they are in the workplace. This means that any areas used by staff must be safe and free from potential hazards such as fire or slips, trips, and falls. If an employer fails to comply with this legislation, they could face a hefty fine or criminal prosecution.

This includes all electrical equipment that needs to be PAT-checked to ensure it is safe for use by employees. If an employer wishes to reduce the risk of fire or injury to its workers then it may opt to not install a kitchen or break area.

Read more: What facilities does an employer legally need to provide?

Specific requirements for different industries and sizes of business

The type of industry a business operates in may also influence the necessity to provide break rooms or kitchens. 

For example, establishments like restaurants or cafes that serve food must adhere to strict health and safety regulations as part of their licensing agreement. This could include providing suitable amenities for staff such as a kitchen or break room.

On the other hand, an office with a few employees might feel that a fridge and a sink are enough to service the needs of the workers. 

Businesses with more active workers, such as warehouses, feel that their workers are more energetic if they have a place to recover from a four-hour shift on their feet. 

The size of the business also plays a part. Smaller businesses are not typically required to provide catering facilities, but larger businesses may need to offer more amenities. This is usually dependent on the number of staff employed and their individual needs.

Often workers will rely on the generosity of their employers as there is no legal requirement to provide a break room.

Benefits of providing break rooms or kitchens to employees

Providing break rooms or kitchens for staff has several benefits. 

  • Morale: A break room can help to improve morale and productivity as employees have a designated place to take a break and relax away from their desks. 
  • Job satisfaction: It can also increase job satisfaction and make a workplace feel more welcoming and inclusive.
  • Team building: The kitchen is the perfect place for workers to interact in a more relaxed atmosphere than concentrated at a desk.

How to set up an effective break room or kitchen

When setting up a break room or kitchen, it is important to consider the needs of the staff

As an employer consider these questions: 

  • Do you want to provide tea and coffee facilities? 
  • Or a place where employees can store their food? 
  • How about somewhere to cook?
  • And somewhere to sit?

If an employer is providing hot beverages such as tea or coffee, they should also provide suitable mugs and a fridge for milk and food. However, also bear in mind that a fridge can be a source of tension if there is no milk left, or someone’s lunch goes missing. As for the other amenities that might be needed such as a microwave, food storage facilities, and a seating area. 

A few standard rules about cleanliness and fridge etiquette might be worth considering.

Part of maintaining a shared area is to ensure that the break room or kitchen is kept clean and tidy at all times, as this will help to maintain a safe working environment for staff.

Conclusion

In conclusion, providing break rooms or kitchens for employees is not something that the UK legally requires employers to do. However, it can be beneficial to both staff and the employer. Businesses should ensure they comply with relevant health and safety regulations when setting up such amenities, and consider their individual needs in order to create an effective break room or kitchen.