Guest Blog by Shakira Joyner of HCHR
What does the law say on employee rights during hot weather?
Although the Great British Summer often doesn’t result in hot temperatures, the hottest day of the decade could be on its way to the UK, with the mercury set to climb to highs of 34 degrees this week, according to the Met Office.
But, for some employees, the sun’s rays can make the working environment almost unbearable.
In the UK there is no maximum temperature that a workplace is allowed to reach. Advice from the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) states “during working hours, the temperature in all workplaces inside buildings shall be reasonable”. What is reasonable depends on the type of work being done (manual, office, etc) and the type of workplace (kitchen, air conditioned office, etc).
Answers to employee rights during hot weather
Here at HCHR we thought it might be useful to answer your top five employer FAQs with regards to employee rights during hot weather :
1. Are there any other regulations that protect workers during hot weather?
In addition, the 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.
The temperature of the workplace is one of the potential hazards that employers should consider when doing risk assessments.
2. Do I legally have to provide air conditioning in the office?
No, you do not. Where working temperatures are uncomfortable, employers should consider:
- Using fans or air conditioning if available
- Providing cool water in the workplace and encouraging workers to drink it to prevent dehydration
- Modifying the dress code requirements if appropriate
However, sensible employers will use mobile air conditioning units and fans to keep workers cool. If you have other suggestions for how your employer could make working in the warm weather more comfortable, you should pass these on.
3. Is it acceptable for workers to wear shorts and flip flops in the office during warm weather?
You may change dress code requirements in warmer weather if this is appropriate. However, they are still entitled to insist on certain standards of appearance, particularly for customer-facing roles and for shoes and clothing to be sensible for health and safety reasons.
4. Are there any other regulations that protect workers during hot weather?
The general duties for employers to treat employees with trust and confidence apply throughout the employment relationship. At times of hot weather and uncomfortable working conditions, employers will need to be considerate to employees: after all, if staff are too hot, they won’t be at their most productive.
5. Can workers leave their workplace if it becomes too hot?
Not unless staff feel unwell and need to take sick leave. The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 places a legal obligation on employers to provide a “reasonable” working temperature in the office. Employers have a duty to determine what reasonable comfort will be in the particular circumstances.