What are employers obliged to do to accommodate such high heats?
Today is the hottest since 2006 , and while this is great news if you have the day off, work outside, or get to enjoy some sun rays; if you’re cooped up in an office, things can get uncomfortable very quickly!
In fact, the TUC released a statement on Tuesday, advising workplaces to relax dress codes to avoid employees overheating in stifling shirts and ties. But what are the rules for working in a heatwave?
The short answer is there aren’t really any. Given our country is, sadly, not very hot very often, we haven’t had much need for specific regulations. Ed McFarlane, our resident Employment Law expert, explains: “There is no maximum temperature limit, as indeed there is no minimum temperature. The gist of the guidance is the workplace temperature should not be uncomfortably high and that thermometers should be available in suitable locations so people can check what the temperature is.” You should also ensure that access to drinking water is available to employees.
However, employers should be aware of health and safety regulations which cover uncomfortable working environments, including working in a heatwave.
As Ed advises, “You can’t say there must be a fan or an air conditioner, but if a workplace is uncomfortably hot a worker would, in theory, have the right to leave the workplace on the grounds of health and safety, and not have any action taken against them.”
If you aren’t sure what steps you should take, Ed’s advice is: “consider taking steps such as providing fans to increase ventilation, moving people away from hot windows, or shading windows and maybe providing portable air conditioning machines as a means to control temperatures.
“But, it is really about keeping people reasonably comfortable. Even handing out ice creams or choc ices might make people feel comfortable and alleviate the discontent which can come with hot weather.”
For more information, you can hear more from Ed in his online interview here.