The temperature in the UK is soaring this week and could rise to a record-breaking 39C, with Jersey already reaching a record 36C on Tuesday!

And whilst topping up tans and eating ice cream may the highest priority, most of us still need to go to work.

Unfortunately, there isn’t a legally defined maximum or minimum temperature for offices yet, but your employer is responsible for “keeping the temperature at a comfortable level”.

The TUC says: “When the workplace gets too hot it is more than just an issue about comfort.

“If the temperature goes too high then it can become a health and safety issue. If people get too hot, they risk dizziness, fainting, or even heat cramps. In very hot conditions the body’s blood temperature rises. If the blood temperature rises above 39C, there is a risk of heat stroke or collapse. Delirium or confusion can occur above 41C.”

Which begs the questions, can it be ‘too hot to work’?

The Health and Safety Executive, who are responsible for guidelines in this area, say that due to the differing conditions from one workplace to another, it would be ‘impractical’ to introduce any set rules.

However, by way of some guidance, Regulation 7 of the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 states that:

‘During working hours, the temperature in all workplaces inside buildings shall be reasonable’

Although there is no definitive temperature established in the UK, what is deemed as a ‘reasonable’ temperature will depend on the workplace, the type of work being carried out and for how long. E.g. if a workplace reached temperatures of 35 degrees+, a worker wearing protective equipment, whilst undertaking physically demanding labour would have more of a case for unreasonable working temperature (and for provisions to be put in place) than somebody carrying out light administrative duties in the same conditions.

The law does state however that, as an employer, if a significant number of employees complain about the temperature of working conditions, then you should carry out a risk assessment and, where necessary, act on its results.

In order to keep employees comfortable, here are some things you may wish to consider:
  • Making sure any air conditioning (if available) is switched on and is properly functioning;
  • Purchasing fans if no air conditioning is available;
  • Opening windows;
  • Providing access to plenty of drinking water;
  • Providing more breaks during the day.

That said, employees will still need to abide by your policies and procedures, for example, adhering to any dress codes, being at work on time and not expecting an early finish simply because the weather is hot.

So, although it is highly unlikely that the spike in temperature will mean your employees have a right to an early exit from work, it’s important to adapt your workplace to the warmer conditions to help employees stay happy and comfortable in the heat, hopefully maintaining morale and productivity despite being stuck at work.

If you need assistance with any employment law-related issue, contact our Stockport-based employment lawyers on 0161 930 5117, e-mail or fill in our online enquiry form and we will be in touch.

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