Temp adamant she was safe, but law firm’s print company supplier had “no time or resources for a risk assessment”
A graduate was left humiliated when she was sent home from Eversheds’ Cardiff office over peanut allergy concerns.
The former Cardiff University history student — who has a life-threatening allergy to peanuts and currently claims jobseeker’s allowance — told Legal Cheek she was recruited by a print company, Ricoh, to do a week’s worth of work. The company is one of Eversheds’ suppliers, and occupies space in the global law outfit’s office to carry out work for the firm.
Our tipster claims she had asked a temp agency — through which she had found the position — to mention the allergy to Ricoh before she turned up for work. Because no food was allowed in the office, she told us the agency did not think it was an issue and did not pass on the message.
However, when the graduate showed up at the office and communicated her allergy to her supervisor, the supervisor became “anxious” and “unsure” about whether she could be accommodated.
She then claims she was given a tour of the offices where the pair noticed open bags of peanuts. While this unnerved the supervisor, the graduate said she “believed [she] would be safe” because the room she was working in was peanut-free and she had anti-bac wipes and latex gloves on her person. She continued:
My supervisor was unsure if I would be able to handle the documents or get water from the taps — I was willing to try as I know how to keep myself safe from contamination.
However, despite arriving at the office at 9am that morning and having told her employer she was “adamant” of her safety, the history grad was turfed out at 11am by her supervisor following a meeting with HR. The supervisor told the graduate the company “had no time or resources for a risk assessment to gauge how to keep [her] safe”. She added:
I pleaded that the only reasonable adjustment I wanted was for the office I was in to be peanut free, and I would take care of the rest of my safety. But this was not enough and they said I had to go home despite my protests.
When we got in touch with the international law firm about these peanut allergy allegations, an Eversheds spokesperson said:
Although this was entirely a Ricoh recruitment and management matter, we were sorry to hear about this and naturally disappointed for somebody who was keen to work for a week but was unable to. Employee safety is the biggest priority for any firm and we have procedures and resources at Eversheds to manage all manner of allergy and disability situations, so could deal with such a situation here and we expect the same of our suppliers.
As for Ricoh, a spokesperson sympathised with the graduate, revealing to Legal Cheek his son also has a severe nut allergy. “In normal circumstances this would not have been a problem for us”, he said, but on the day Ricoh had “no option” but to send her home. He told us:
Although clear and defined processes exist for managing this type of allergy, they do take time to implement effectively and properly. Having not been forewarned that she had this allergy by our recruitment agency, the opportunity to invoke these processes in a reasonable timeframe to ensure her safety was just not possible.
This is a sentiment shared by Eversheds. “Unfortunately, we understand that Ricoh’s lack of advanced notice from the temp agency put them in a difficult position and they were not able to implement a solution on that day”, the firm spokesperson continued. “They will be reporting back fully to us on the outcomes of a review they have undertaken. One of the initial reactions is that agencies really should communicate allergies in all cases rather than trying to assess remotely whether they feel it is relevant and I would encourage any temporary worker to ask their agent to do so to be on the safe side.”
With Eversheds and Ricoh pointing the finger at the recruiter, we reached out to the temp agency for comment too. A spokesperson said:
On this occasion, a mistake was made in not informing the business in advance of this allergy. Upon being made aware of the situation, we liaised closely with the candidate and the business in question to see if the assignment could continue following a thorough risk assessment. As this was not possible, we ensured the candidate was paid for the whole day and secured them another placement where their allergy could be accommodated.
The spokesperson noted the agency has “a strict policy and vetting process to ensure that any disabilities and severe allergies are accommodated for, ensuring candidates are not disadvantaged and are able to pursue their careers in a safe and supportive environment. Consultants within the business have been reminded of this policy and process following this incident.”
For all the latest commercial awareness info, and advance notification of Legal Cheek’s careers events, sign up to the Legal Cheek Hub here.