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Is it too hot to be in work? – What does the law say?

It is not often that we get hot temperatures within the UK, however when we do it can raise the question within the workplace as to whether it is too hot to be in work.

Rules in relation to temperatures within the workplace are covered by the Workplace (Heath, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 which state: –

7.(1) During working hours, the temperature in all workplaces inside buildings shall be reasonable.

(2) A method of heating or cooling shall not be used which results in the escape into a workplace of fumes, gas or vapour of such character and to such extent that they are likely to be injurious or offensive to any person.

(3) A sufficient number of thermometers shall be provided to enable persons at work to determine the temperature in any workplace inside a building.

An employer is obliged to ensure that the temperature within the workplace is reasonable. Whilst there is not a maximum or minimum temperature for the workplace, The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) Approved Code of Practice* recommends the workplace should be at least 16 degrees Celsius, or 13 degrees Celsius if much of the work involves rigorous physical effort. In relation to maximum temperatures however, there is no temperature which is deemed to be too high, and temperature can be relative to the type of workplace you are in, for example a glass works would be naturally higher in temperature than an office.

Practical Steps an Employer can take

In addition to the Workplace (Heath, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992, Employers also have an obligation under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 to make suitable assessments of any risks to the health and safety of their employees and to take any necessary action if possible where reasonably practicable. Accordingly, employers should be proactive in ensuring a reasonable temperature in the workplace.

Whilst an employer is not obliged to provide air conditioning, if the workplace has a unit, then they should consider turning it on. Alternatively, if there are other ways of reducing the temperature such as opening windows or shutting blinds or curtains then this should also be considered. If work is carried on outside, then sun screen and appropriate clothing may be worn.

Furthermore, many workplaces have dress codes to encourage a corporate image and to maintain professionalism, however on hotter days, an employer may consider allowing a ‘dress down’ day if appropriate, which may mean suits, or ties are not a necessity on that day.

Employers should also consider any vulnerable workers and any additional steps which could be taken such as allowing for additional rest breaks, providing fans and ensuring that ventilation is adequate.

*http://www.hse.gov.uk

At O’Donnell Solicitors, we are able to advise both employers and employees in Employment Law matters from general advice at grievance and disciplinary stage, to acting in issued cases before the Employment Tribunal, Settlement Agreements and in the drafting of employment contracts/service agreements and policies.

Should you require any advice on any Employment Law matter, then please contact us on 01457 761 320 or email Suzzanne Gardener at [email protected]