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Ben Jones
Ben Jones, UK Lawyer
Category: Employment Law
Satisfied Customers: 50202
Experience:  Qualified Employment Solicitor
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I'm working NHS trust. This trust is removing staff

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I'm working for an NHS trust. This trust is removing staff facilities and building over rest rooms and changing. There are no plans to provide some where for employees to have there lunch break. We are told we will have to use the public coffee shop. I have concerns over patient confidentiality as they may approach nurses whilst on their break and ask questions about there procedurs. Also concerns for staff safety because if we have had to have someone ejected for unsocial behaviour their is a chance of meeting that individual whilst on your lunch break in a public area.
Hello, my name is***** am a solicitor on this site and it is my pleasure to assist you with your question today. How long have you worked there for?
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
I have worked in this trust for 5 years I am a staff side representative.
How likely is it that this arrangement will actually cause these issues and what do you think the employer can do to prevent this or at east reduce the risks?
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
It is very likely that this will occur I have put various proposals and solutions to the employers and they seem determined to have it their way. The health, safety and welfare regulations clearly states that employers must provide suitable rest facilities away from your work station. We don't get paid for our lunch break and it would be impossible to relax if we are mixed with the patients and relatives, particularly if they have had a long wait or there appointment cancelled.
You are correct that the regulations state you should be provided with facilities where you can spend your breaks away from your workstation but that has quite a narrow interpretation in reality. Your workstation is exactly that – the specific place where you undertake your work. For an office worker it is their desk, for a nurse it is their ward, for a shop worker it is the till or the shop floor. It is not the whole workplace, it is limited to the specific place where they conduct their day to day work activities. So if you work on a ward and care for patients there, you are entitled to have your break away from that ward and the areas where you undertake your work. It would not cover the communal coffee shop in the hospital as that is not your workstation. So the employer can move these facilities there if they wanted to, as they would not be breaching any laws by doing so. You mention certain concerns about patient confidentiality if they approached you but you do not have to discuss anything confidential with them when on your break and can simply advise the that you cannot discuss that with tem there and then. If they were to disclose details about themselves then that is up to them, it is their information, they can do with it as they wish. Finally, anyone unsociable that has been ejected, the chances of meeting them in the coffee shop would be more or less the same as meeting them anywhere else on the grounds or nearby. You could bump into them on your way from work, you could meet them in the corridors, etc. You are still in a secure area in a sense that it is a public space on the hospital’s grounds and if something was to happen you could rely on security. So legally the employer is not doing anything wrong by removing your existing facilities and replacing them with these. It may not be ideal but it is not unlawful. You may try and negotiate with them, perhaps by getting a group together and using the vice of the people to try and add some weight to your cause but legally you cannot force them to change their mind. You have the option of raising a grievance if you wanted to but that would generally be the last option short of resigning and claiming constructive dismissal, the latter of which I would not recommend in the circumstances. I'm sorry if this is not necessarily the answer you were hoping for, however I do have a duty to be honest and explain the law as it actually stands. This does mean delivering bad news from time to time. I hope you understand and would be happy to provide any further clarification if needed. If you are still satisfied with the level of service you have received I would be grateful if you could please take a second to leave a positive rating by selecting 3, 4 or 5 starts at the top of the page. Thank you
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