Working in hot temperatures - what are my rights?
The recent heatwave has sparked a series of questions about working in high temperatures. Our employment law specialist James Hodgson offers some advice for employers and employees.
In the UK there is no maximum temperature that a workplace is allowed to reach. Instead, advice from the Health and Safety Executive states that "during working hours, the temperature in all workplaces inside buildings shall be reasonable". What might be considered reasonable depends on the type of work being done and the nature of the workplace. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) provides guidance on workplace temperatures including details on carrying out an optional thermal comfort risk assessment if staff are unhappy with the temperature of their working environment.
Getting to work
Generally hot weather should not affect journeys to work. However, occasionally public transport can be affected if temperatures go above a certain level for example train companies might limit the speed of trains in case the tracks buckle. Check for speed restrictions before you travel and allow enough time to arrive at work on time.
Keeping cool in work
Employers are not legally obliged to provide air conditioning in workplaces but they are expected to provide reasonable temperatures so:
- if you have air conditioning switch it on
- draw blinds to block out sunlight
- if you are working outside, wear appropriate clothing and use a sun screen
Drinking plenty of water is very important and employers must provide staff with suitable drinking water in the workplace. Drink water regularly throughout the day - don’t wait until you are thirsty (this is an indication that you are already dehydrated).
Hot weather can make workers feel tired, especially those who are young, older, pregnant or on medication. In hot weather, it’s good practice for employers to give these workers more frequent rest breaks and ensure adequate ventilation by providing fans or portable air cooling units.
Dress code in the workplace during hot weather
Employers operate a dress code for many reasons such as health and safety or to project a corporate image. While employers are under no obligation to relax their dress code or uniform requirements during hot weather, some allow staff to wear more casual clothes in favour of ties or suits. Find out more about dress codes from ACAS
Contact our experts for further adviceMaureen Cawthorn
The contents of this article are intended for general information purposes only and shall not be deemed to be, or constitute legal advice. We cannot accept responsibility for any loss as a result of acts or omissions taken in respect of this article.