Food in the Workplace

An employer must give an employee who works continuously for more than five hours an unpaid meal interval of at least one continuous hour. During a meal interval the employee may be required or permitted to perform only duties that cannot be left unattended and cannot be performed by another employee, in this situation the employee must be paid for the meal interval.

The Act is silent on the supply of food during the meal interval and if an Employer decides to supply any food it is viewed as a fringe benefit and can be for the cost of the employer or employee at the sole discretion of the Employer. Employers are warned that this benefit has been the cause of a lot of labour unrest and if this benefit is introduced it must be supplied to all staff and not only for a few privileged few.

It is also well recognised that the food environment, defined as the physical, economic and socio-cultural surroundings, opportunities and conditions; influence people’s food and beverage choices and can either support or hinder efforts to healthy eating thus impacting on their nutritional status. Unhealthy food environments which people are continuously exposed to, influence the widespread availability and access to cheap, energy-dense and nutrient-poor foods. It is therefore important that the food environment in the workplaces encourage employees to make healthy food choices thereby enhancing their health and wellbeing, protecting the environment and reducing inequalities.

The following legislative and strategic frameworks are applicable on supplying food for staff :

1 Legislation
• The Occupational Health and Safety Amendment Act, 1993 (Act no. 181 of 1993); which imposes a general duty on employers to provide a reasonably safe and healthy working environment;
• Regulations governing general hygiene requirements for food premises and the transport of food as published under the Foodstuffs, Cosmetic and Disinfectant Act, 1972 (Act no. 54 of 1972), provide quality standards for food premises and for transportation of food to comply with;
• Public Service Regulations impose a general duty on employers to provide a reasonably safe and healthy working environment.

2 Strategic Frameworks:
• The Strategy for the Prevention and Control of Obesity in South Africa, 2015-2020; provides guidance on the implementation of healthy lifestyle interventions to address obesity, healthy eating and physical activity in the South African population
• The National Health Promotion Policy and Strategy, 2015-2019
• The Strategic Plan for the Prevention and Control of Non-Communicable Diseases, 2013-2015 ;
• Sport and Recreation South Africa Strategic Plan, 2012 – 2016 ;
• Integrating Health Promotion into Workplace Occupational Health and Safety Policies (Training package), 2017 ;
• The WHO Plan of Action on Workers Health, 2008-2017; emphasise the need to protect and promote health and safety at work by preventing and controlling of hazards in the work environment and by promoting health and the work capacity of working people;
• The Employee Health and Wellness Strategic Framework for the Public Service