With temperatures hitting new highs, employees could legitimately ask whether they can be kept at work as things get uncomfortable.
When the workplace gets too hot, it is more than just an issue about comfort. If the temperature goes too high then it can become a health and safety issue. People might feel dizzy, start to faint, as well as an increased risk of heat stroke or collapse.
The TUC wants to make it illegal to keep people at work indoors if the temperature is above 30°C as well as protection for people working outside or driving too.
The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 state the temperature in the workplace needs to be reasonable. However, there is no maximum temperature.
What is reasonable will depend on the nature of the workplace and the work being carried out by employees. Factors such as whether or not the work is strenuous or physical will need to be taken into account.
Employers also have to provide clean, fresh air as well as keep temperatures at a comfortable level. Therefore because there is no official limit, employees could take action whatever the temperature as long as people think it is uncomfortable.
One potential solution would be adopting a more relaxed dress code during the summer months, however, the extent to which an employee may be allowed to dress down when the temperature rises will in part depend on the role they perform.
In the case of customer-facing roles, certain standards of presentation may need to be maintained. Equally, for health and safety reasons, it may be necessary for employees to continue to wear protective clothing irrespective of summer heat.
One way or the other, organisations should ensure the dress code is reasonable, appropriate to the needs of the particular business and does not discriminate between groups of employees.
If a significant number of your employees are complaining about thermal discomfort, you should carry out a risk assessment, and act on the results of that assessment. If however your employees are more vulnerable, for example they have a thyroid imbalance or are undergoing the menopause, or need to wear protective equipment at work so cannot take of layers, that also has to be taken into account.
So the answer is simple, if your enough of your employees state they are uncomfortable, the Company will have to act.
For further information, please get in touch with Sally Morris at firstname.lastname@example.org or on 01905 734032.