Adequate Welfare Facilities For Employees - What Are The Legal Liabilities?

In the UK, employers have a legal responsibility to provide adequate welfare facilities for their employees.

author

James Rowland

Commercial Director James leads Account Management, Sales and Marketing at Neathouse Partners.

Date

20 April 2023

Updated

11 July 2024
3 min read
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Adequate Welfare Facilities For Employees - What Are The Legal Liabilities?
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In the UK, employers have a legal responsibility to provide adequate welfare facilities for their employees.

These responsibilities are outlined in various pieces of legislation, including:

  • The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 - These regulations set out the requirements for the provision of welfare facilities in the workplace. The regulations require employers to provide suitable and sufficient facilities, including sanitary conveniences, washing facilities, drinking water, and rest facilities.

  • The Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 - This legislation places a duty on employers to ensure the health, safety, and welfare of their employees while at work. This includes providing adequate welfare facilities.

If an employer fails to provide adequate welfare facilities, they may be liable for legal action, including:

  • Health and Safety Executive (HSE) enforcement action - The HSE has the power to take enforcement action against employers who fail to comply with health and safety regulations, including the failure to provide adequate welfare facilities.

  • Employee compensation claims - If an employee is injured or becomes ill as a result of the employer's failure to provide adequate welfare facilities, they may be able to claim compensation for their injuries.

  • Criminal prosecution - In serious cases, employers may face criminal prosecution for failing to provide adequate welfare facilities, which could result in fines or imprisonment.


Read on to understand what equipment & services fall under welfare facilities, how to determine what you need for your workplace, and how to ensure you comply with the legal requirements. 

What Are Welfare Facilities?

Welfare facilities are amenities and services provided by employers to ensure the health, safety, and well-being of their employees while they are at work.

These facilities include but are not limited to:

  1. Sanitary conveniences - such as toilets, wash basins, showers and handwashing facilities.
  2. Washing facilities - such as showers and hand washing facilities for people, clothing and protective equipment.
  3. Drinking water - employers are required to provide employees with access to clean and fresh drinking water.
  4. Rest facilities - such as break rooms, and eating areas like canteens or kitchens.
  5. Changing facilities - such as changing rooms and lockers.
  6. First aid facilities - such as first aid kits, trained first aiders, and access to medical care if required.

These facilities are intended to provide a safe and healthy working environment for employees, and employers are legally required to provide adequate welfare facilities to their employees.

Which Facilities Do You Need To Provide?

The type of welfare facilities that you will need to provide for your employees will depend on the nature of the work being carried out, the number of employees you have on-site, and the workplace environment.

We recommend taking the following steps to establish which facilities you need to provide in your workplace to ensure the health, safety, and wellbeing of your employees.

Conduct a risk assessment

Employers should carry out a risk assessment of the workplace to identify the potential hazards and risks that could impact the health and safety of their employees.

This will help them identify which welfare facilities are necessary to mitigate those risks.

Review legal requirements

Employers should review the legal requirements for welfare facilities set out in the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 and other relevant legislation.

This will help them understand the minimum requirements they need to meet to comply with the law.

Consult with employees

Employers should consult with their employees to understand their needs and requirements for welfare facilities.

This will help them identify any additional facilities that may be necessary to ensure their employees' wellbeing.

Seek professional advice

Employers may seek professional advice from health and safety consultants, trade associations, or regulatory bodies to ensure they are meeting their legal obligations and providing adequate welfare facilities to their employees.

What Happens If Employee Welfare Requirements Aren't Followed?

If an employer fails to provide adequate welfare facilities, they may face a range of sanctions, including:

  • Civil penalties - An employer can be issued a civil penalty of up to £20,000 for serious breaches of the law.
  • Informal compliance action - In some cases, an enforcement officer may take informal action, such as issuing a warning or improvement notice.
  • Criminal prosecution - In severe cases, an employer may face criminal prosecution for failing to provide adequate welfare facilities, which could result in fines or imprisonment.

There have been various cases in the UK where employers have failed to provide adequate welfare facilities, and this has resulted in successful legal claims being brought against them, including;

  1. A waste management company was fined £1 million after a worker was killed when he fell into a silo. The company had failed to provide adequate welfare facilities, including emergency communication and breathing apparatus.
  2. A bakery company was fined £2 million after an employee's arm was dragged into a machine, causing serious injuries. The company had failed to provide adequate welfare facilities, including guarding the machine and safe systems of work.

In both of these cases, the employer's failure to provide adequate welfare facilities resulted in serious harm to employees, which led to legal claims and significant fines.

Employers must also remember that apart from the legal expenses and penalties, business owners, directors & top-level management personnel can also be held accountable personally if they fail to take reasonable and adequate measures to comply with health and safety regulations, or if they neglect to do so.

Summary

Employers can face legal consequences if they fail to provide adequate welfare facilities for their employees.

In the UK, this means employers must provide suitable and sufficient facilities, including sanitary conveniences, washing facilities, drinking water, and rest facilities.

Failure to do so can result in HSE enforcement action, employee compensation claims, and criminal prosecution.

Next Steps

Neathouse Partners can help you to ensure that your business is compliant with the legal liabilities for employee welfare facilities.

If you would like support with managing and understanding your employer's responsibilities regarding providing adequate welfare facilities, policies and procedures, please call 01244 893776 to talk to our friendly team.

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