Helping employees keep
their cool in a heatwave

Helping employees keep their cool in a heatwave

Published: 28th July 2019
Area: Corporate & Commercial
Author(s): Tom Long

The recent heatwave has once again brought up questions surrounding dress code and hot weather policies. If employees are uncomfortable, it’s difficult to maintain a productive workplace, so should re-assessments be made? After all, when temperatures soar, putting on a shirt and tie for work can feel like torture.

Tom Long, partner in our employment team, explores what businesses can do to ensure their employees stay cool:

Safe working temperatures

Although there is a minimum working temperature of 16 degrees centigrade, currently, there is no maximum. This is because in some work environments, such as a bakery or foundry, the temperature will reach higher temperatures far quicker than in an office. Therefore, it’s difficult to set an appropriate limit for all.

Legal obligations

Employers have no legal obligation to ensure suitable working temperatures. However, they do have a duty of care over their employees, so must provide a safe environment where staff are not at risk of falling ill from the heat. Installing air conditioning or making sure there is always access to cold water could be part of this.

Dress code

In hot weather, businesses should consider relaxing the rules around restrictive clothing, such as ties. Employees are unlikely to produce their best work when all they can think about is how warm they are.

It may even be worth introducing a dress-down policy for days when temperatures are considerably above average, and for meeting commitments allow a more casual dress code.

Flexible working

On days of extreme temperatures, implementing an early start and late finish workday, like those common in hot countries, would allow workers to rest during the worst of the heat.

Working from home could also be an option, with disruption to railways caused by the hot weather leading to issues for many commuters.

Failing to consider what adjustments could be made to support employees when the temperature rises is not advisable. If staff become ill from the heat, especially those with health conditions which mean they are more susceptible, employers could find themselves involved in a personal injury dispute.

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