Summer is here! And it’s already too hot….

This week we’ve seen 4 straight days of temperatures hitting 30 degrees, which is quite frankly uncharted territory for anybody who wasn’t alive during the infamous summer of ‘76.

It’s a tradition for the British people to immediately complain about soaring temperatures the second the tabloids utter the words ‘heatwave’, exacerbated further for some by the fact they have to be in work instead of out enjoying the good weather.

Hot temperatures can make working conditions uncomfortable, not to mention the potential adverse health risks prolonged exposure to high heat can cause.

Which begs the questions, is there such thing as it being ‘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.  For example, certain workplaces (such as certain factories) will sometimes need to operate at a higher temperature than your average office.

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’

So what is reasonable temperature? And under what conditions would an employee be able to make a health and safety at work claim?

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. For example, 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 Gorvins Solicitors on 0161 930 5101, e-mail or fill in our online enquiry form and we will be in touch.

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