In recent days we have enjoyed another great run of hot weather with pockets of high temperatures, as high as 35c in places, and wall-to-wall sunshine. The downside has meant employees travelling to the office and working in hot, uncomfortable conditions.
Over the past few days I have also received calls from a number of local employers who are looking to do the right thing to protect their employees as temperatures peaked. These conversations highlighted two things to me - some HR teams and business owners were on the ball, but others clearly needed proper and professional guidance.
It’s not widely known but the TUC, led by Frances O’Grady, is pushing to make it illegal for companies to keep people at work indoors if the temperature is above 30c. They are also calling for more protections for people who work outdoors.
This is a debate which will rumble on but as things stand, current Workplace Regulations state that the temperature in the workplace needs to be reasonable. However, there is no maximum temperature threshold and what is reasonable will depend on the nature of the workplace and the work being carried out.
What is clear, however, is that during hot weather such as we are experiencing now, employers should always provide clean, fresh air as well as keeping temperatures at a comfortable level. However, if a significant number of employees are complaining about the heat, a risk assessment should be carried out, the results acted upon and then should be communicated to employees.
Dress code is another grey area but while employers are under no obligation to relax their dress code, some may allow workers to wear more casual clothes, or allow dress down days so employees are more comfortable travelling to and during work. This is a little more difficult for customer-facing roles which often needs a uniform – something a variety of companies are addressing by introducing a range of summer workwear which gives options for staff. This can remove any doubt or debate.
Another big factor to consider is how hot weather can affect vulnerable workers, such as those who are pregnant or on medication. This can make them feel tired and it is good practice for managers to offer them more frequent rest breaks and ensure they receive as much fresh air as possible.
These are just some examples but more than anything, employers should be understanding to any problems raised due to hot weather and must adopt a flexible approach. That flexibility can be achieved through good planning by business owners and HR teams, and having a range of options agreed and in place.
It’s simple to say but failure to do so will see a constant stream of personnel-related issues.
Darryll Thomas is an associate within our award-winning Employment division. Readers can contact Darryll through firstname.lastname@example.org