Drinking water in the workplace: What are the laws?
It’s expected for employers to encourage their workforce to keep hydrated especially as studies have shown that having dehydrated staff means there could be a 12% decrease in productivity. But that’s not the only reason, employers have a legal responsibility to supply clean and accessible drinking water to all employees.
What are the legal requirements?
The workplace regulations 1992 is a law in the UK that requires employers to provide ‘wholesome’ drinking water to all staff no matter their workplace, so that means that workers in the office need the same access to water as their physical labor counterparts.
Making sure you provide clean drinking water for all of your employees is a part of your workplaces health and safety remit. The water you provide must be clean, free from contamination, unlimited and easily accessible. You must also provide a hygienic way for your employees to drink, like disposable cups or washable glasses. Alternatively, you can also give employees access to a water fountain.
Can my employer prevent me from drinking water?
No, your employer cannot stop you from drinking water. All employees must have access and freedom to drink whenever they need to.
Access to clean drinking water is not only a basic human right but it also improves the health and productivity of employees. Not giving staff the water they need to stay hydrated not only goes against the law but is also incredibly counterintuitive. Studies have shown that when staff are hydrated there’s a boost in productivity, they have a higher reaction time and they have more energy!
Adding a bottled water vending machine or even an accessible water cooler is an easy way to make sure your employees access to water is safe and devoid of contaminants. They can be placed in areas that employees frequent like a break room or canteen so they have access whenever they need to.
Making sure your employees know the benefits of proper hydration can help create a healthier workplace overall. Most people are aware of how much water they need to drink a day but they often dismiss the consequences of not doing so.
Dehydration can cause short term side effects like low energy, lack of concentration and dizziness but it can also cause long term conditions that can cause serious health complications. Teaching your staff about them through signage or a mention in a morning meeting could be enough to increase water intake in the workplace.
Corporate social responsibility
Sometimes just following the law isn’t enough, your responsibilities as an employer go further than just giving employees access to clean drinking water.
Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is a business model that helps companies be socially accountable for their decisions including economically and environmentally. This means when you make your decision on what drinking water solution you provide to your employees, you should try and choose the most environmentally responsible option you can.
Conserving water is an important part of helping the environment as treating the water we drink from taps isn’t energy efficient and also involves a lot of chemicals. Using something like a bottled water machine can help with conserving water.