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The Heat is On: Employee Rights and Employer Obligations in the Heatwave

Jul 25, 2019

by Kimberley Wallace, Senior HR Consultant
0333 400 7920 | kim@employassisthr.co.uk



With temperatures reaching 38°C degrees today, employers are sure to be faced with hot and bothered staff, and even possible complaints over the working environment. But what obligations does an employer have towards their staffs’ wellbeing in heatwaves?

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) requires employers to provide a safe and comfortable environment for their employees to work in. The Health, Safety and Welfare Regulations 1992 also requires employers to provide a ‘reasonable’ workplace temperature. But there is only a minimum temperature stated. This is 16°C in the workplace (or 13°C if doing physically demanding work). Surprisingly there is no legal maximum temperature for the workplace. 

Trade unions and some MPs have been more recently campaigning for setting a maximum working temperature at work. They suggest this should be set at 27°C for manual work and 30°C for non-manual work. However, there have been no changes to the law as yet.

For employers to meet their obligations of providing a safe and comfortable working environment, the following resolutions should be considered and implemented to help employees manage the heat:

  • Implement a relaxed dress code for your staffs’ comfort;
  • Introduce temporary flexible working times to avoid the hottest parts of the day;
  • Allow earlier/later start and finish times to make the commute easier for your staff;
  • Permit working from home throughout a heatwave;
  • Restricted / reduced duties during the hottest part of the day for manual and outdoor workers, or those working in hot environments (e.g. bakeries / kitchens);
  • Allow more frequent breaks and ensure adequate fresh air circulation;
  • Provide access to cold water, and sun-cream and hats for outdoor workers;
  • Support anyone that may find the hot weather more challenging (e.g. pregnant, elderly, menopausal, disabled staff) by offering a range of solutions like the above.

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