The hottest day of the decade is set to take place on Thursday 26th July with temperatures set to increase to 34 degrees. But do employers and employees know what the law says about working in hot weather?
In the UK, there is no maximum temperature that a workplace is allowed to be. The Health & Safety Executives (HSE) advise “during working hours, the temperature in all workplaces inside buildings should be reasonable”. However, what is defined as ‘reasonable’ is dependent on the type of work done (office, manual etc.) and the type of workplace (office, kitchen, air conditioned etc.) Staff members can only leave the workplace if they feel unwell and as a result, will need to take sick leave.
The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 states a suitable assessment of risks for the health and safety of employees must be carried out by employers. The temperature of the workplace is a potential risk that should be examined when conducting risk assessments and this is because employees may find the environment uncomfortable to work in.
Dress codes may be a difficult subject to discuss when working in warm conditions as a lot of staff members are unsure about what they can and can’t wear. Employers will often have dress codes for their employee to represent their organisations and to communicate a corporate image. A dress code may also be set for health and safety reasons or so employees are correctly dressed.
It isn’t mandatory for employers to change the company dress code during hot weather conditions however, some may allow staff members to have ‘dress down’ days or wear casual clothes. Employers may allow their employees to not wear suits or ties so they don’t find it unbearable working in the warm weather. It’s important this is communicated clearly to all employees to prevent confusion. Employees working outdoors should also dress appropriately as the warm weather will have a larger effect on them.
Air conditioning can help employees to work more comfortably in the workplace. It isn’t a legal obligation for employers to provide air conditioning however it will keep employees feeling cool. All curtains in the workplace should be shut to prevent the sun rays from entering the workplace.
Any employees who work outside should also use sun cream to protect their skin from the sun. It would be convenient and useful for employers to provide this to their employees so they aren’t sunburnt.
The hot weather will have more of an affect on older, younger and pregnant workers as they feel more tired and lack energy. Employers should give these workers frequent rest breaks to ensure they are productive and working at a high standard.
Employers must be considerate of employees and provide cool drinking water so no one in the workplace becomes dehydrated.
If you need any support or guidance in adapting the workplace in hot weather conditions, please contact a member of the HPC team:
T: 0844 800 5932