This UK directive simply takes the cake - GulfToday

This UK directive simply takes the cake

Birjees Hussain

She has more than 10 years of experience in writing articles on a range of topics including health, beauty, lifestyle, finance, management and Quality Management.

Representational image.

Representational image.

Smoking is prohibited in all places in most parts of the world. It’s prohibited not only because it is dangerous to the health of the smokers but the smoke they exhale is dangerous to the health of those around them. Smokers create passive smokers.

But did you know that a watchdog in the UK wants to prohibit another habit from the workplace? They think this habit is almost as bad as smoking and that is bringing in sweet treats like cakes, pastries and chocolates, into the workplace. According to the UK food watchdog chief, cakes belong at home and not in an office. Even though the watchdog has advised workers not to take in cakes and chocolates into the office it sounds like the word ‘ban’ might be more appropriate since she has likened it to passive smoking.

In my first job in London, almost every day was someone’s birthday and on every one of those days, it was customary for the birthday boy or birthday girl to bring in some cakes for all their colleagues. If someone did not, it was considered unsociable, unfriendly and a tad stingy. I think that is a fairly universal practice in many offices around the country. In fact, sweet treats are consumed not only on birthdays but on anniversaries, births, Christmas and Easter.

But is it really like passive smoking, though? Is the comparison fair? Is a possible prohibition or ban fair?

Passive smoking is when those in the vicinity of a smoker inhale the smoke that is being exhaled. If they cannot move to a less smoky environment then they have no choice but to breathe it in. It is not a choice unless they have an alternative place to go that is away from the smoke. This is not the same as, or similar to, cakes being handed out in an office.

When sweet treats are available, everyone has a choice to either help themselves or control themselves. They may be able to smell the cakes, which I highly doubt, but in no way is that smell alone going to cause physical harm to those around them, unlike in passive smoking.

Those on diets and health issues need to minimise their intake of sugars. But no one can force them to do that. It’s a decision they need to make themselves for the sake of their good health. This is the argument being put forward by those critical of the food watchdog chief. They say that no one is forcing anyone to eat cake every day unlike inconsiderate smokers who used to impose their second hand smoke onto other people, until they were forced to smoke outside.

So how do you discourage sweets in the workplace? The fact is that you can’t. How can an office be expected to monitor what food their staff bring into the office? Are we expecting security to conduct spot inspections of offices and desks or even a baggage scan at the door? More to the point, why on earth would an office spend their precious time and energy carrying out random checks on their premises looking for cakes and pastries? The whole scenario sounds absurd.

Yes, cakes and sweet treats are a temptation for those trying to avoid consuming them. But offices are not the only places where these temptations exist. No, one doesn’t normally find an office pantry filled with sweet treats but even if an office does decide to do the unusual and ban them, staff will find their sugar fixes at lunch time. So if the whole purpose of this discouragement is to prevent people from eating too many sweet things, it’s not going to work.

One question that does spring to mind is, how would an office penalise an employee for being nice, friendly and generous anyway? Would they dock a day’s pay? Or dock a day’s leave? Or force a day’s suspension without pay? Or pay some kind of fine that goes into a ‘cake jar’ to be used for purposes other than cakes? Or would they be forced to bring in fruits and vegetables as a penalty? Maybe using the money from the said ‘cake jar’?

I think that there are so many other things that need to be banned from offices but cakes are not one of them.

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