Work and Wellbeing · 21 August 2018

How can I encourage employees to make healthy food choices in the workplace? 

Employers can benefit from providing healthy food to there staff, as it can help prevent less sick days.

Employers can first look at the food which they provide to their employees. Those with a staff canteen should ensure they are providing balanced and healthy meal choices at lunch time; these are proven to provide a sustained energy source that prevents fatigue and allows employees to work productively throughout the day.

To increase awareness of healthy meal options you could advertise each respective meal with the notice that it is a ‘healthy choice’, as well as listing the calorie intake and nutritional benefits of its ingredients. It is common for most menus to feature a vegetarian option to accommodate various religious beliefs and dietary requirements.

Those without a staff canteen will find most of their employees bring lunches from home or purchase food from nearby retailers, therefore employers can tailor their approach.

One option would be to provide a selection of free fruit to employees as a nutritious alternative to unhealthy processed snacks. Providing access to free drinking water will also allow employees to remain hydrated throughout the day, without consuming drinks which may be high in caffeine or sugar. 

Placing promotional posters in communal areas is likely to encourage employees to consider changing their eating habits for the better. Periodically tailoring your promotions to show support for well publicised national awareness campaigns, such as Februarys ‘Healthy Heart Month’, may also be particularly effective in encouraging any change.    

You may wish to consider inviting a nutritionist into the workplace to hold a talk with your employees, explaining to them the positive impact that healthy eating can have on their work and private lives. You could also incentivise healthy eating by offering your employees discount vouchers for a healthy food delivery service.

It is important to strike a balance when promoting healthy eating habits as you must avoid discriminating against employees who are considered obese.

Whilst obesity is not a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010, employers can be liable to discrimination claims if it can be proven an individual’s obesity qualifies as a disability, especially where it is linked to a medical condition.

Therefore you need to exercise caution when implementing any changes to the working environment, focusing specifically on the benefits of healthy eating and avoiding criticism of alternative eating habits.

 

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ABOUT THE EXPERT

Kate Palmer CIPD is the head of advisory at law firm Peninsula and is a member of its senior leadership team. She joined in 2009 having held a senior HR manager's role in another large company. With a specialist background in facilities management in the NHS, Kate offers a wealth of employment law experience. She's an expert negotiator - one notable case was with the NHS's trade unions over terms and conditions in the Agenda for Change pay system.

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