Making work safe for people with allergies

In the UK, 1-2% of the adult population have allergies and intolerances. Therefore, it’s important for employers and employees to work together to create a safe working environment for people with allergies. Whether the workplace is an office, healthcare setting, university, retail, or outdoor working environment, managing allergens is important not only for employees but also volunteers, students, and contractors.

Managing Allergens in the Workplace: A Guide for Employers and Employees

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AllergyWise® for Workplaces

Our AllergyWise® for Workplaces course is designed to ensure all staff in a workplace or business are allergy aware, can recognise the signs of a serious allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) and have the confidence to safely manage a reaction.

Ideas for employers

If an employee has serious allergies, below are some ideas of how you can help keep them safe at work. This will depend on the person’s allergy and their reaction history, so you should communicate directly with your employees with allergies to find out how you can best support them.

  • Carry out an individual workplace risk assessment for employees with allergies. Find out about their reaction history and what steps can be taken to ensure they can avoid their allergen/s in the workplace.
  • Create a safe area for staff with food allergies to store their food, offer safe snacks/meals if you provide food and make sure outside caterers are aware of staff with food allergies.
  • If staff are expected to eat out at restaurants, e.g., for work meetings with clients or for celebrations, ensure the restaurants can cater safely for food allergies. Our eating out guide has further information about eating out safely.
  • Ensure all staff know the signs of an allergic reaction and what to do in an emergency. Offer training sessions to all staff to improve their knowledge and understanding of allergies and anaphylaxis.
  • Make sure staff are aware of the impact of “pranks” on colleagues who have allergies. Food allergy bullying, when someone with allergies is teased or even threatened with the food they are allergic to, is never ok and is potentially life threatening.
  • It’s important your employees with allergies are comfortable with any information you share with the rest of the workplace about their allergies – always get permission first.

Environmental Allergies

For employees with environmental allergies, such as house dust mite allergy, animal allergy, mould allergy or hay fever, here are some further points to consider:

  • right_arrow_orange_icon Provide a space to hang coats and jackets away from the main working area, as these can carry dust and pet hair.
  • right_arrow_orange_icon Keep the workplace properly ventilated, but if an employee has hay fever, keep the windows closed early morning and late afternoon when the pollen count is highest.
  • right_arrow_orange_icon If there are plants in the workplace, make sure they are regularly watered, and the topsoil is removed so that mould can’t grow.

Download our template workplace risk assessment here

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Ideas for employees

If you have an allergy, we recommend speaking with your employer about your allergies when you accept the position, so that they can carry out a workplace risk assessment and create a safer working environment for you.

  • Give your colleagues specific information about your allergies, including how serious they are and how to recognise the signs of an allergic reaction.
  • Let them know how they can help prevent allergic reactions and how they can help you manage your allergies, such as communicating with you before they plan a lunch or event where food will be involved.
  • If you are happy to, give your employer consent to share your allergy information with the wider workforce.
  • Ask colleagues to label all food that they bring into the workplace and to not eat allergens in your workspace.
  • Let your colleagues know where you keep your adrenaline auto-injectors.
  • Speak to your employers to make sure your workspace is regularly cleaned, so that it’s not harbouring any dust or allergens that you may react to.
  • Make an Allergy Action Plan and keep it with your adrenaline auto-injectors, so your colleagues know what to do in an emergency.

Allergy action plan for adults

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Allergies at work FAQs

  • Should nuts be banned in the workplace?

    We don’t typically recommend complete bans of any food allergens because they can be very difficult to enforce, may lead to a false sense of security and cannot guarantee an allergen-free environment. People can be allergic to many food allergens other than nuts, for example fish and egg, and it would be impossible to ban them all. We recommend an allergy awareness and risk assessment approach. Workplaces should carry out an individual risk assessment for any employee with an allergy and put appropriate measures in place to reduce the risks as far as possible. Every workplace is different, but this may include extra cleaning measures or adjustments of the timings and locations of breaks and meals if necessary.

  • Is it ok for employees to eat at their desk?

    Eating at desks is common practice in many workplaces and would be difficult to ban. If you sit near to a colleague with a food allergy, it’s important to have an understanding of cross-contamination risks and you shouldn’t eat allergens in their workspace. It may also not be appropriate for an employee with food allergies to ‘hot desk’.

  • Is hand sanitiser as effective as hand washing?

    No. Washing your hands is proven to remove more allergens than using antibacterial hand sanitisers.

  • I work with a colleague who has an animal allergy. Should assistance dogs be refused from entering the business?

    Assistance dogs must be permitted access and it is the responsibility of the employer to put in place any measures that are necessary to keep the employee with the allergy safe. This could include measures such as the employee not being in the room/building at the time of the visit and implementing cleaning measures after the visit.

  • Who is allowed to administer adrenaline in an emergency?

    Regulation 238 of the Human Medicines Regulations 2012 allows for adrenaline to be administered by anyone for the purpose of saving a life in an emergency.

  • If I have to administer adrenaline, how quickly will it work?

    Signs of improvement should be seen fairly rapidly – usually within minutes. If there’s no improvement, or the symptoms are getting worse, then an injection with a second adrenaline auto-injector should be given after five minutes.

  • What are the signs and symptoms of anaphylaxis?

    Any one or more of the following symptoms may be present – these are often referred to as the ABC symptoms.

    AIRWAY -swelling in the throat, tongue or upper airways (tightening of the throat, hoarse voice, difficulty swallowing)

    BREATHING – sudden onset wheezing, breathing difficulty, noisy breathing

    CIRCULATION – dizziness, feeling faint, sudden sleepiness, tiredness, confusion, pale clammy skin, loss of consciousness

    Other symptoms that might be present include:

    • a red raised rash (known as hives or urticaria) anywhere on the body
    • a tingling or itchy feeling in the mouth
    • swelling of lips, face or eyes
    • stomach pain or vomiting.


    These symptoms can also happen on their own. If you don’t have the ABC symptoms, the reaction is likely to be less serious and is not the same as anaphylaxis but watch carefully in case ABC symptoms develop.


  • When should I tell a new employer about my allergy?

    Unless your allergy may directly impact the role, you don’t need to bring it up at interview. We recommend letting your employer know on acceptance of the role to give them an opportunity to make reasonable adjustments to your working environment.

  • Should I tell my colleagues about my allergy?

    While it is always your choice whether to tell your colleagues about your allergy, we recommend that those who work closely with you are made aware. We recommend having a conversation in which you discuss your allergy, the signs and symptoms of an allergic reaction and what to do if you have an allergic reaction.

AllergyWise® for Workplaces

Our AllergyWise® for Workplaces course is designed to ensure all staff in a workplace or business are allergy aware, can recognise the signs of a serious allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) and have the confidence to safely manage a reaction.