Starting a business can be an exciting time, and for a while, it may just be you working on it. Taking on your first staff member is an important landmark, and it can change the perspective of the business. However, as you take on employees, it is important to take another look at what you offer and how you take care of them.
As an employer, you are required to do more than just pay wages in order to keep your staff happy and safe. There are a number of welfare requirements that you need to take into consideration, particularly as the number of people that you employ starts to grow.
More people working in your organisation can change the landscape of what you do and forces you to go back and look again at what your welfare responsibilities are. You need to make sure that everything is in order legally as well as a responsible employer. These things are not luxuries, but basic needs that any employee should expect to find in the workplace.
As an employer, you must provide your employees with certain welfare facilities according to the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992. This includes things such as toilets, changing rooms and drinking water. This should be done as far as is ‘reasonably practicable’, which means unless it is demonstrably difficult due to time, trouble, and cost. If the inconvenience caused to you is minimal, then it is likely to be thought of as being reasonable to make the adjustments.
These might be things that you took into consideration when you first started your business, but as the number of people working in your business grows, you will need to continue to look at what you offer and assess whether it is enough. For some facilities, there are strict ratios on what should be provided according to the number of staff that you have, whilst other items are less strict.
One of the important welfare requirements is the number of toilets that you have available. Whether you are an employee, a customer, or a visitor, you do not want to join a long queue just to be able to use the toilet.
For mixed-use toilets or women-only ones, you only need to have one toilet if you have less than five employees, two toilets for between six and 25 employees, three toilets for between 26 and 50 employees, four toilets for between 51 and 75 employees and five toilets for between 76 and 100 employees.
It should also be noted that when you provide toilets for women, you should make sure that they have a hygienic way for them to dispose of sanitary materials.
In the construction industry, sinks need to be large enough for your employees to fit their arms into in order to wash it thoroughly and prevent any skin conditions from forming.
When you are working on temporary sites, it can be more difficult to provide the right ratios and facilities, and public toilets should only be used as a last resort. However, portable toilets can provide the perfect solution. They usually come with sinks, washing facilities and sanitary bins to ensure that you are meeting your welfare requirements with a minimum of hassle.
Depending on the type of work that you do, your employees might also require showers which should supply both hot and cold water, soap, and towels as well as adequate ventilation. Men and women should be provided with separate wash facilities unless there is a secure lock on the facility and is only intended for one person at a time.
Your employees are entitled to expect somewhere to sit during their break periods, and this should be within easy reach of washing facilities and the ability to heat food and drink.
If your type of work requires employees to change into clothing such as uniforms or Personal Protective Equipment, then you will need to provide them with somewhere suitable to do this. You should ensure that there are separate facilities for men and women which are easily accessible, offer a means to sit down and are close to clothing storage and washing facilities. These changing facilities should ensure absolute privacy and give employees somewhere to hang their clothing.
Personal Protective Equipment
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) must be provided and well looked after. It needs to be stored in a suitable location and there must be enough to go around for those that need it. You should regularly review your PPE to make sure that it is in good order and that it is being used correctly. This will give you the chance to replace anything that has seen better days and review training if it is not being used in the way that it was intended. You may also want to consider installing signs as a reminder to wear PPE.
If an employee falls pregnant, you should make sure that they have the ability to rest when they need to. These rest facilities should be in close proximity to the toilets, and where possible, you should try and provide space for her to lie down. For more information about employees and pregnancy, read Maternity leave.
Providing welfare facilities is one thing, but you also need to make sure that they are well-maintained. They should be clean and hygienic as well as in good working order. This will need to be regularly reviewed and you will need to revisit the numbers that you need as more staff are recruited into the business.
Welfare facilities are not just a legal requirement but also something that you should want to offer as a good employer. Making life comfortable for your employees through reasonable standards is the minimum that anyone should expect when coming to work. An employee who feels that they are well looked after and cared for is more likely to give their all for the business and stay a loyal member of staff for a long time.
For more information, read Starting a business and consider implementing an Employee handbook. For more information on the workplace policies employers should consider adopting, read HR policies and procedures and remember that you can Ask a lawyer if you have any questions or don’t know where to start.