Working in a Heatwave
Although the summer doesn’t result in extreme hot temperature, there are times when the heat picks up and workers find themselves working in hot and uncomfortable conditions.
In the UK there are no fixed minimum or maximum temperatures required for the workplace. The advice from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) states “during working hours, the temperature in all workplaces inside buildings shall be reasonable”. Defining whether a temperature is reasonable will depend on the type of work being done (manual, office etc) and the type of workplace (factory, air conditioned office, etc).
Some company’s may have a policy on extreme weather, which will cover extreme heat to extreme cold but they aren’t always clear. In particular, the policy does not have to be the same for everyone, there are some categories which may need special treatment, but this still needs to be fair.
Getting to work during hot weather
Generally, hot weather should not be a reason to avoid travelling to work, but public transport occasionally may grind to a halt in extreme heat and it is therefore worth having a policy in place so employees know what to do in the event of travel disruption due to heat.
Special consideration should be made for anyone who may experience greater problems in extreme temperatures because of medical or other conditions. If someone is pregnant or on medication, they may need more frequent rest breaks and be given a personal solution, such as a portable fan or air cooling unit. Similarly, those working under direct sunlight, or in protective clothing, may need special consideration, as working outside without adequate protection or lack of fluids may result in an increased risk of sun burns and dehydration.
Employers often have a dress code in the workplace for many reasons such as health and safety, or workers may be asked to wear a uniform to communicate a corporate image. A dress code can often be used to ensure workers are dressed appropriately.
While employers are under no obligation to relax their dress code or uniform requirements during hot weather, some may allow workers to wear more casual clothes, or allow “dress down” days. This does not necessarily mean that shorts and flip flops are appropriate; rather employers may relax the rules in regards to wearing ties or suits.