Workplace Temperatures Debate Heats Up

Following Tuesday’s record-breaking heatwave, the discussion around when it is safe to work in extreme temperatures has become a hot topic (pun intended).

The beginning of the week saw temperatures exceeding 40°C in some parts of the country. Some schools sent pupils home for the day and many fire services were overstretched, with reports in London of over 2,600 calls in a day in comparison to the average of 350-500, in a bid to tackle blazes caused by the extreme heat.

Despite the temperature falling to normal levels on Wednesday, the weather has continued to cause issues, with repairs needed to mend warped roads along with buckled rails and power outages reducing services on public transport.

With all the disruptions caused by the extreme weather, the topic of whether there should be a legal limit for workplace temperatures has been widely debated.

What are the rights in the UK?

Currently, there is no law in the UK or Ireland that states a minimum or maximum temperature for a workplace environment. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to creating a legal limit because every work environment is different, whether staff are working indoors or out. 

Under the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), it is recommended for levels to be kept at a ‘reasonable’ level or a minimum of 16°C or 13°C if employees are regularly carrying out physical work.

Employers have a legal and moral duty to look after the welfare of their employees. Measures that would help ensure staff are working in a comfortable environment may include:

  • relaxing formal dress codes
  • access to cold water throughout the day
  • supplying fans or air conditioning units
  • opening windows and switching off radiators
  • allowing staff to work from home to avoid travel disruptions, and
  • moving to a different workstation during the day to avoid working in direct sunlight

With the possibility of the heatwave returning in the next few weeks, it is recommended that businesses adapt their strategies so that staff are able to work safely and comfortably, no matter the weather.

For further guidance on ensuring the wellbeing of your employees, please get in touch with the team at IHRS. Email HRhelp@ihrsolutions.co.uk, call 07872 118 264 or visit the IHRS website.

About the author

Jessica joined RWA in 2018, having graduated with a First Class Honours degree in Film Studies. Her role as a content designer involves developing new and engaging e-learning modules as well as assisting in the creation of articles for Insight. 

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