Most of us welcome some warmer weather especially after what feels like a particularly long winter. Weekends and holidays are one thing, however working in the warmer weather is not always such a pleasant prospect particularly if the workplace isn’t a comfortable place to be. So, what do employers and staff need to consider when the temperatures rise?
What is too hot?
In the UK there is no maximum temperature that a workplace is allowed to be, rather advice from the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) states “during working hours, the temperature in all workplaces inside buildings shall be reasonable”. What is reasonable depends on the type of work being done (manual, office, etc) and the type of workplace (kitchen, air conditioned office, etc).
The HSE offers further guidance on workplace temperatures including details on carrying out an optional thermal comfort risk assessment if staff are unhappy with the temperature.
Keeping Cool at Work
Employers are not legally obliged to provide air conditioning in workplaces, although where it available it makes sense to use it. Other sensible solutions might be to offer fans or if there are blinds or curtains then using them to block out sunlight. Those employees working outside should wear appropriate clothing and use sun screen to protect them from sunburn. Employers must provide suitable drinking water in the workplace given that it is important to stay hydrated.
Hot weather can make workers feel tired and less energetic especially for those who are young, older, pregnant or those on medication. Employers may wish to give these workers, more frequent rest breaks and ensure ventilation is adequate by providing fans, or portable air cooling units.
Dress code in the workplace during hot weather
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. Relaxing the dress code can help people to keep cool and retain morale.
When it is particularly warm employers can acknowledge the conditions by perhaps offering the occasional perk such as ice lollies or drinks. Small incentives can help keep spirits higher as well as the temperatures.