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It’s going to be hot … real hot

Reasons to choose Wilson Browne

The Met Office has issued an Amber warning for extreme heat over the weekend and into the early part of next week. What are workers’ rights in these conditions?

On the gov.uk website it states that during working hours the “temperature in all indoor workplaces must be ‘reasonable’”.

The TUC issued a statement that “working in hot weather can lead to dehydration, muscle cramps, rashes, fainting, and — in the most extreme cases — loss of consciousness. Outdoor workers are three times more likely to develop skin cancer” and have called on the government to introduce an absolute maximum working temperature of 30°C.

The HSE have the following advice on their website for hot environments:

  • reschedule work to cooler times of the day
  • provide more frequent rest breaks and introduce shading to rest areas
  • provide free access to cool drinking water
  • introduce shading in areas where individuals are working
  • encourage the removal of personal protective equipment when resting to help
  • encourage heat loss
  • educate workers about recognising the early symptoms of heat stress.

Employers and employees may have many questions about hot weather working:

What regulations are in place for workers to be protected?

Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 requires employers to make a suitable assessment of the risks to the health and safety of their employees. Workplace temperature should be assessed as part of risk assessment.

What about air conditioning – should it be provided?

There is no requirement for a workplace to have air conditioning. Alternative methods of cooling should be considered such as providing fans and cool water or iced products.

Open dialogue for staff to make suggestions of other ways to make the workplace more comfortable in the heat.

Dress code

Employers may consider modifying the dress code so that staff can wear clothing more suitable to the heat. However in a public facing role or where there are health and safety requirements a certain standard of attire and appearance is likely to be required.

Can staff go home if it is “too hot”?

Unless they feel unwell, which would then be sick leave, no.

An employer has a legal obligation under The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 to provide a reasonable working temperature. This is sometimes known as thermal comfort. The duties of trust and confidence of employers apply throughout the working relationship.

Staff will not be at their most productive if they are too hot.

Hazel Taylor

Posted:

Hazel Taylor

Paralegal

Hazel is often the first point of contact for clients of the employment team. She is a paralegal in our employment team having worked previously in both the Commercial Litigation and Company & Commercial teams as a legal secretary.