Employer guidance on working temperatures
What a fabulous summer we’ve enjoyed in the UK so far this year! Yesterday recorded the hottest day so far with the mercury hitting 33.3°C (91.9°F) in Suffolk. But when is it too hot to work? Whilst the hot weather is enjoyable for many, it has been causing unexpected problems for some industries. Farm crops have been damaged and many farmers are currently praying for rain. For others too, the weather has been impacting the workplace. Even businesses that are not usually concerned by the weather conditions have seen how it can cause issues. Workers have been forced to work in unusually hot and uncomfortable conditions.
So what does the temperature have to reach before work must stop?
A number of our clients have asked us what the law states on maximum working temperatures there last few weeks. Their employees are naturally finding it more difficult to stay comfortable at work in the current climate. What may come as a surprise to some is that there is no law for maximum – or minimum – working temperatures. Government guidelines only state that the temperature in all indoor workplaces must be reasonable. They suggest a minimum working temperature of 16°C (or 13°C if employees are doing physical work). There is no maximum temperature limit at all. It is very difficult to specify a maximum given some businesses, such as metal foundries, often work in intense heat regardless of the weather.
What can employers do?
Naturally we would urge all employers to talk to their staff. if necessary, encourage them to come forward with practical solutions if the workplace temperature isn’t comfortable. Regardless of the weather conditions, all employers must stick to the health and safety at work law which includes:
- Keeping the workplace temperature at a comfortable level
- Providing clean and fresh air
During the summer heat, as a responsible business owner you should consider options such as relaxing dress codes, providing air conditioning and/or considering extending any opportunities for employees to work from home. Buying your staff ice lollies is a short-lived, but very welcome, way of helping them cool down and allowing them to take a break from the heat for a few minutes. We’re not weather experts, we’re employment law experts, but we all know that whilst it’s a problem now, the UK weather will not maintain this heat for too much longer.