Following soaring temperatures across Britain this past week, and even higher ones expected at the start of this week, much of Britain’s workforce find themselves feeling very uncomfortable at work. But does it ever legally become too hot to work?
Is there a maximum working temperature?
The law does not specify a maximum temperature for working conditions. However, the Health and Safety Executive does provide guidance on minimum temperatures, recommending minimum working temperatures of 16 degrees Celsius, or 13 degrees Celsius if ‘rigorous physical’ work is involved.
Regulation 7 of the workplace Health, Safety and Welfare Regulations 1992, also states that: ‘During working hours, the temperature in all workplaces inside buildings shall be reasonable.’ There is also the overriding duty to protect the health and safety of all workers, so risk assessments should consider the impact of extreme temperatures.
Recently a number of MPs have backed a campaign to enforce a maximum working temperature of 30 degrees Celsius in most work places, although this is still in its early stages.
Ultimately, it is important for employers to consider their overall ‘duty of care’ and the wellbeing of employees. Employers should also pay particular attention to employees’ varying and individual circumstances, such as health issues and disabilities that may increase the impact of the heat.
Are employees allowed to work from home in instances of extreme heat?
There is no specific legislation that allows employees to work from home in cases of extreme temperature; but where possible, employers should appropriately consider flexible working requests and implementing reasonable adjustments.
What should I do if I am finding it difficult to work in the heat?
If you are struggling to work in the heat, particularly if this is due to a disability or underlying health condition, it is important that you speak to your employer and consider what would help alleviate the difficulties.
Good practice points for employers in cases of extreme heat:
- Consider being flexible with working hours – would workers starting and finishing an hour earlier be beneficial?
- Consider whether increased home working would help
- Ensure access to water is readily available
- Consider temporarily making the dress-code more flexible, if it is safe and appropriate to do so
- Consider providing fans or air conditioning or re-locating employees to cooler parts of the office
- Close blinds/curtains closed to block out sunlight
- Consider whether it is better to keep the windows closed as the air temperature outside could be hotter than inside
- Ensure your employees are taking regular breaks, but suggest they avoid lunchtime walks in the full heat of the sun
- Ensure risk assessments take account of extreme weather
For more information on this subject, please contact our Employment Team at [email protected] .