What does the law say about working on hot days – a warning for not taking action

Temperatures are expected to exceed 30 degrees Celsius in many parts of the UK. mike hibbsemployment partner in law firm Shakespeare MartineauDiscusses what businesses should do to keep their employees calm – wherever they are working.

The fact that many employees are still working from home does not mean that employers can suddenly forget their health and safety responsibilities. Also, if people are uncomfortable, it is difficult to maintain a productive workplace.

safe working temperature

Employers typically rely on air conditioning and ventilation to control the temperature within the workplace. However, many workers still working at home may not have this option, the only means they have is to keep open windows to keep them cool.

This can create street noise and potential disturbances from neighbors when attempting to make a telephone or video call, and therefore make this option impractical. Businesses should think about what else they can do to provide practical support, for example, by providing workers with electric fans if appropriate.

For employees who have returned to the workplace, although the minimum working temperature is 16 degrees, there is currently no maximum temperature. This is because some work environments, such as a bakery or foundry, will reach high temperatures far more quickly than an office. Therefore, it is difficult to set an appropriate threshold for everyone.

legal obligation

Employers have no legal obligation to ensure appropriate working temperatures. However, they do have a duty to care for their employees, so they must provide a safe environment where employees are not at risk of getting sick from the heat.

With regard to the general workplace, installing air conditioning or ensuring that there is always access to cold water may be part of this. Employers must follow a sensible plan when remote working is taking place to protect the well-being of the workforce; This should include requiring line managers to check-in with employees at least once a day and reminding employees to stay hydrated and take appropriate breaks.

dress code

For employees who have returned to the workplace in hot weather, businesses should consider easing restrictive clothing rules, such as binding. Employees are unlikely to do their best work when all they can think about is how hot they are.

It may also be worth introducing a dress-down policy for days when temperatures are well above average, and encourage a more casual dress code to meet commitments. Employers with a dress code for video calls when working remotely should also consider relaxing this.

flexible working

On days with extreme temperatures, implementing an early start and late end workday, as is common in hot countries, will allow workers to rest during the worst heat and work when it is cooler. The health and safety of your employees should always be a priority. It is not fair to fail to consider what adjustments can be made to support employees as temperatures rise.

Employers may find themselves embroiled in a personal injury dispute if employees become heat sick, especially those with health conditions, which means they are more vulnerable. Ultimately, employee safety should always be an employer’s top priority and they cannot force employees to work if temperature and noise levels prevent them from doing so.

Certain disabilities, such as COPD and arthritis, also make working in high temperatures particularly difficult, so employers need to consider the appropriate adjustments they may need to make to help them do their jobs safely. Is.

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