The Met Office has issued a red extreme heat warning for parts of England on Monday and Tuesday as temperatures are likely to reach the high 30's and perhaps even 40! What does this mean for employers and do you have to continue going into work?
The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 state that employers must ensure that temperatures in workplaces are reasonable. The accompanying Approved Code of Practice gives employers practical advice on a reasonable temperature and confirms that the temperature inside the workplace should normally be at least 16 degrees. If the work involves rigorous physical effort, the temperature should be at least 13 degrees. The Approved Code of Practice is silent on how hot is too hot but does advise employers to take all reasonable steps to achieve a reasonably comfortable temperature.
This week, MP's have signed an early day motion asking the Government to introduce legislation to ensure employers maintain reasonable temperatures. The proposal suggests a maximum workplace temperature of 30 degrees, or 27 degrees where the employees are undertaking physical activity. The same suggestion was made by MP's and unions in 2013 but a maximum temperature was not introduced.
In terms of practical steps, employers could consider adapting a formal dress code to allow for more causal dress, rearranging workstations from the direct sunlight and even introducing flexible working patterns to limit sun exposure. Employers should give additional consideration to staff who suffer with a disability, health condition or who are pregnant as it may mean these staff are more vulnerable in the heat and to see if any further support can be offered to these employees.
For employees, while there is no maximum temperature which will mean you can avoid going to work, employers do have a duty of care to ensure that you are safe in the workplace. If you are concerned about your safety in the heat, you should speak to your manager in the first instance to see what else can be actioned to keep the workplace cool. If your workplace is still too hot, the Health and Safety Executive advises that if a significant number of employees complain about the heat, the employer should carry out a risk assessment and act upon the results of that assessment.
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