Q Staff have approached their boss and asked him to provide them with a fridge, so they can bring packed lunches in. Is he forced to agree?
A Even in the absence of specific legislation, there are some pretty good reasons to consider having a staff fridge. Hot temperatures will mean staff are at greater risk of going down with food poisoning if items haven’t been stored properly, especially if your workplace doesn’t have air conditioning.
But there are also other situations where the duty to provide a fridge is mandatory. For example, a diabetic member of staff may need insulin, which often required refrigeration. Alternatively, an employee may have a health condition that requires a special diet for example, coeliac disease, where many food items need to be kept cool. These could both amount to disabilities under the Disability Discrimination Act 1995. This means that you will have a legal duty to consider whether any "reasonable adjustments" are necessary; providing a fridge could be one that you must make.
So while you are only duty-bound to provide a fridge in limited circumstances, research shows that staff who bring in food are less likely to take time away from their desks they won’t be popping out around the shops when they nip out for a sandwich!
If you do provide a fridge, set some hygiene ground rules for example, removing unwanted and out-of-date food and sharing the space fairly with colleagues. Even if your business isn’t subject to food hygiene legislation, you still have a common law duty of care. So include the fridge in the general cleaning rota and check its temperature periodically the correct range is 1-4°C.