Advice for employers during a heatwave

As it stands, in the UK, there is currently no legal maximum temperature for workplaces, but the HSE states that employers should ensure their staff are working in ‘reasonable’ temperatures and the TUC is currently asking ministers to introduce a maximum working temperature of 30ºC, and 27ºC for those undertaking strenuous activities. 

Under the Management of Health and Safety Regulations 1999, employers are required to undertake suitable risk assessments, and perhaps the temperature of a workplace is something that should be considered.

Either way, this can be an emotive topic as some people already working in high temperatures, (for example kitchens), will find a heatwave particularly difficult to endure, and while employees do not have the right to leave work due to high temperatures, they may take sick leave if they become ill.

Bear in mind that those with disabilities or underlying health conditions such as the menopause, are more susceptible to becoming ill in high temperatures and those over 65 are more at risk from heat stress, so ensuring the wellbeing of your employees will be more cost effective in the long run, especially if you end up also facing the cost of legal action taken by employees not sufficiently protected.

So, what can you do to make working more comfortable for your workers during a heatwave?

For those working indoors, the CIPD suggests honouring flexible working arrangements, allowing staff to work from home in hot weather, and to stagger their start and finish times to avoid travelling at peak rush hour. Relaxing dress codes and providing as much ventilation as possible, fans, and air conditioning also help hugely. All these factors could help to increase productivity and reduce stress, so they’re well worth being considered.

For those working outside, in construction for example, the Institute of Occupational Safety and Health has issued guidance for employers, advising that staff wear sunscreen, hats and sunglasses, and swap job tasks so that all workers can spend time in the shade. 

Earlier start times and a longer break in the middle of the day as well as access to shaded rest areas and a free supply of cool drinking water will all benefit those working outdoors considerably.

If you would like further advice, please do get in touch.