Employee Engagement

Workers should not be left out of pocket if they choose to eat meat, according to the UK’s largest union, after a firm said it would be not pay expenses for meals containing meat.

US firm WeWork has told staff it will no longer reimburse them for meals containing poultry, pork and red meat. It will also cease serving meat at its events due to environmental concerns.

The TUC said firms should encourage staff to make healthy choices, but should not penalise meat eaters.

WeWork, a US-based shared office space provider which employs 6,000 people globally, said in a memo: “Moving forward, we will not serve or pay for meat at WeWork events, including poultry, pork and red meat.”

It said, citing¬†research from the journal Science, “avoiding meat is one of the biggest things an individual can do to reduce their personal environmental impact”.

WeWork said its decision would save 16.6 million gallons of water, 445.1 million pounds of CO2 emissions and 15,507,103 animals.

The calculation is based on five-year projections for employee growth as well as the number of people using its office space – which currently stands at 253,000 “members”.

Hannah Reed, senior employment rights officer at the TUC, said: “Employees should be encouraged to make healthy choices. They should not be left out of pocket if they choose to eat meat.”

Bloomberg reported that people who require “medical or religious” allowances are being referred to WeWork’s policy team to discuss their options.

Sadiq Vohra, an employment lawyer at Slater + Gordon, says: “It is quite prescriptive, a company telling employees ‘when you are out and about we will not pay for you to eat meat products’.”

But he said that as long as the company was able to make concessions to the policy based on religious or medical grounds then it should not be problematic.

Companies have become more vocal about environmental issues and earlier this year a number of firms in the UK signed up to a pact to cut plastic pollution over the next seven years.

Alastair Woods, reward and employment partner at PwC, the accountancy firm, said that the way a company “thinks about the wider world” is of increasing importance for prospective employees.

He said: “We recently ran a survey of employees asking questions about what they look for from an employer beyond pay.

“One quarter of 18-34 year olds in the UK said that acting with integrity was important for an employer, and just over 15% said that a commitment to doing good in society was a factor in deciding whether to apply for a job with a specific company.”

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