With temperatures set to hit over 30 degrees centigrade in parts of the UK this week, the TUC is calling on employers to temporarily relax their workplace dress codes so staff can work through the heatwave as comfortably as possible.
Where people are working outdoors, employers should consider reviewing working times so that, where possible, work is done in the morning and afternoon, rather than around midday when temperatures are highest.
Bosses can also help their workers keep cool by letting them come to work in more casual clothing.
While staff are not expected to work when the temperature drops below 16 degrees (or 13 degress if they are do physically demanding work) there are no restrictions for when the workplace becomes too hot.
The TUC would like to see a change in the law to introduce a new maximum indoor temperature, set at 30 degrees – or 27 degrees for those doing strenuous jobs – with employers obliged to adopt cooling measures when the workplace temperature hits 24 degrees
TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said:
“While many of us will welcome the sunshine and warm temperatures this week, working in sweltering conditions can be unbearable and dangerous.
“Employers can give their staff a break by relaxing dress code rules temporarily and ensuring staff doing outside work are protected.
“Obviously shorts and flip flops won’t be the right attire for all workers, but no one should be made to suffer unnecessarily in the heat for the sake of appearances.”
To keep work cool, the TUC would like to see employers:
- allow staff to adopt less formal attire – with jackets off, and casual lightweight clothes in.
- ensure that outdoor workers have sun-screen and water and are given advice on the need to protect themselves from the heat and sun
- distribute fans to staff and provide portable air cooling cabinets
- allow flexible working so that staff can have the option of coming in earlier and staying later to avoid the sweltering conditions of the rush hour commute
- allow staff to take frequent breaks and provide a ready supply of cool drinks.
Whilst the TUC have concerns about worker safety, Adrian Lewis, Commercial Director for Activ Absence believes that maintaining staff wellbeing is beneficial to employers too.
Absence management expert Adrian says:
“Sickness absence definitely increases in line with the temperature outdoors, so it goes without saying that maintaining fans and air conditioning is important.
“It’s better to relax the dress code and help your staff feel comfortable in work. Your customers will be warm too, so will understand if people are dressed in a cooler way. Consider putting flexible start and finish times in place so staff can avoid sweltering in congested traffic jams, or let staff who are able to work from home, do so.
“Hydration is critical, too, so consider giving staff extra breaks for tea/coffee if they are not allowed to drink at their desk.
“Finally, it sounds harsh, but whilst managers should be empathetic to heat related conditions, make sure that any sick days or additional unplanned holiday is recorded accurately and fairly and dealt with under your normal policies. Most businesses using paper or spreadsheets to manage absence admit they ‘skip’ recording the odd occasion of unplanned holiday or sickness absence. Failing to record leave, or breaking your normal policies just because of warm weather will create upset and resentment among co-workers.”