Working In A Heatwave: What The Law Says

Employers need to be prepared for a wide range of hazards that could strike their workforce.

Historically, heatwaves may have been few and far between in the UK. But the fact is that they’re starting to become an increasingly common feature of the British summer.

In July 2022 the Met Office issued a Level 4 Emergency heat warning for parts of England. This is only issued when a heatwave’s length or severity affects the health and social care system. This means fit and healthy people may suffer illness or death from extreme temperatures.

Regulation 7 of the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 states that employers must ensure a “reasonable” temperature in their workplaces.

How Hot Is Too Hot?

Minimum working temperatures are in place (16°C, or 13°C for employees who carry out physically demanding work).

However, there’s currently no maximum working temperature. This is because some workplaces will always be hotter than others, such as bakeries and glass works.

Employee Rights And Employer Responsibilities

Employees have the right to raise a concern if they feel their working environment is too hot to work.

If significant numbers raise this concern, employers should carry out a risk assessment. Once this is complete, employers should take reasonable measures to make the workplace more comfortable.

What Can Employers Do?

We understand certain businesses can be more flexible than others. That being said, there are several ways any company can make their employees feel more comfortable in extreme temperatures.

Here are some of the simplest steps employers can take to make working life easier during a heatwave:

Relax The Dress Code

A more casual dress code can help employees to stay cool. For instance, relax the rules around ties and jackets to make your employees more comfortable.

Allow Employees To Work From Home

When employees can work from home in the hot weather, they are likely to feel more comfortable. They may have easier access to fans and cold drinks, and can work in the coolest room in the house. This will help to keep them motivated and productive.

Keep The Workplace Cool

Working from home isn’t an option for everyone. Investing in things like electric fans and blackout blinds can help to reduce workplace temperatures.

Amend Working Hours

Changing your normal business hours in extreme heat means your employees can work at the coolest times of the day.

Increase Break Times

Giving workers more regular break periods can help them to stay focused and cool. This is especially important for outdoor workers, as it lets them get out of the sun more often.

Equip Your Workers

If your employees can’t work from home, make their environment as equipped for heat as possible. Provide water coolers in the office. For outdoor workers, supply them with sunscreen, hats and neck covers.

Contact Us

If you need employment law advice on how to best support your employees in a heatwave, please call us on 0808 271 2602.

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