The United Kingdom is experiencing hotter temperatures this week and for many, the ability to head to the beach is not on the cards.
With business as usual for most, many employees may feel a reluctance to put in a full shift whilst temperatures are reaching the high twenties and above.
Throughout any heat waves, employers must recognise their legal requirements when it comes to working temperatures and they ought to consider how their employees are coping with the heat.
What temperature should the workplace be?
The Workplace Health, Safety and Welfare Regulations suggest that employers have a legal obligation to ensure that the temperature in the workplace is ‘reasonable’.
Despite this, it may come as a surprise to learn that there are no legally enforced minimum or maximum workplace temperatures provided.
Many trade unions and MPs have urged the Government to implement specific temperature requirements – suggesting a maximum of 30 degrees for non-manual work and 27 degrees for manual.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) defined an acceptable zone of comfort between 13 degrees and 30 degrees. Whilst the TUC suggests that employers should aim to keep temperatures at no higher than 24 degrees.
How can employers help staff in hot temperatures?
- Provide air-cooling or air-conditioning
- Provide desk or ceiling-mounted fans
- Ensure windows are open
- Shade employees from sunlight via blinds or reflective film on windows
- Relax any formal dress code
- Allow sufficient breaks for workers to cool-down
- Ease any restriction on flexible working patterns or shortened hours
Whilst all these recommendations can be applied to employees in the workplace, many are still working from home during these scorching temperatures.
How can employers assist remote workers?
Workers are fully entitled to stop working completely if temperatures become ‘unreasonable’.
However, many employees working from home will have a fridge and other cooling methods within reach so they may not consider that their employer still has some responsibility.
It is more difficult for employers or managers to carry out their duty of care whilst employees are not physically in the office. Nevertheless, it is crucial that the same level of communication is carried out.
Check in with staff and ensure that the tasks they are doing from home can be done safely in these weathers and that they have the right equipment to do so.
Any disabled employees are still entitled to have reasonable adjustments made for them and if any alternations are needed, employees are responsible for making these happen.
Given the fact that we are seeing extreme temperatures, it would be helpful for employers to establish a policy – ideally with staff discussions included – which assert how the employer will respond to high temperatures as well as what is expected from employees. This could then be added to a staff handbook and communicated to all employees.
As HR professionals, we at HR Caddy continuously share best practices, advice and expertise. For more help or advice on the best employer practices during the summer period, please contact us today.