Let them eat cake: Sunak on cake at work

It is that time of year when Employment Law and HR bloggers can get started on their Valentine’s Day posts… I’ll confess, I had rolled up my sleeves ready to get started and then Sky News delivered an absolute gem…. about cake. 

So, lets box off Valentine’s Day first:

  • Don’t touch your colleagues, yes, even though it is valentines day. 
  • Don’t write inappropriate things and send them to your colleagues, even in folded bits of paper, no it doesn’t matter that it is valentines day, it’s still wrong
  • They probably don’t fancy you, yes, even though it is valentine’s day.
  • Yes, you could get sued, even though it was valentine’s day

All clear? Fantastic- if anything hasn’t sunk in then feel free to give me a call, ideally before the ET1 Employment Claim lands on your desk. Yes, if that happens, you’re definitely in trouble. 

Now, onto the really good stuff, cake at work. 

The Chairwoman of the Food Standards Agency says bringing cake to work is as harmful as passive smoking. 

Sorry what? 

Let me get this straight, someone bringing cake to the office, and here is the key part- not forcing you to eat it, but leaving it somewhere convenient for you to make the choice whether to eat it or not, is comparable to having absolutely no choice over whether you inhale second hand smoke?

Professor Susan Jebb claims that we need more ‘supportive’ environments and to support people at work to make healthy choices, no one should bring cake in. Clearly the temptation is far too high and people have absolutely no free will in the matter when a treat is wafted about the office. 

It’s not school for goodness sake. Fine, children and will power bring associations of questionable self-control, but for adults it is frankly insulting and I say this as someone who is personally overweight. If my employer had brought in a policy of ‘no junk food’ to protect my health, I would feel patronised and grossly insulted. I may have questionable will power, but ultimately as someone who will admit they overindulge on occasion, I still recognise it as my choice. 

I most certainly can avoid cakes in the kitchen if I decide on that day I am not going to eat them, I don’t need someone to molly coddle me in the process by removing all sources of temptation. What else are they going to do? Conduct risk assessments of my commute to see how many temptations I pass on my way home and insist on a different route home? Monitor radio channels in the day and ‘bleep’ out any adverts promoting tempting treats? 

Obesity is a problem in the UK, but it is tackled through education, not Orwellian style control. Employing staff comes with trust. You can provide them with wellbeing guidance and supportive environments, but take it too far and patronise them or wield too much control and you will drive them out to other employers. 

The response from Dishy Rishi’s office (totally a food word play, by the way), was that the Prime Minister is ‘very partial to a piece of cake’ and mostly enjoys carrot and red velvet, and that personal choice should be ‘baked into’ our approach. Spot on. 

I bet working with Professor Susan Jebb is dough joke….. (horrific I know, but that one took me ages!)


If you need legal support with any policy issues in the workplace – cake-related or otherwise – get in touch with our team of employment lawyers.


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